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Thursday, March 11, 2004


An unsolicited e-mail arrives seeking my support for an on-line campaign to kick Clare Short out of the Labour Party. I ignore it as the internal troubles of another party are none of my business. However, further reflection makes me wonder why politics is peopled by so many authoritarians and why they have to transform uncomfortable discussions about issues to such personal animosity. I do not exclude Clare Short from that judgement.

I have no doubt that Clare Short was wrong to breach confidentiality as she did. I also happen to think that she has lost a lot of credibility by the way she clung to power in defiance of her own principles over the Iraq war. Her personal targeting of the Prime Minister is not particularly pleasant either. However, campaigns like this do have all the hallmarks of a witch hunt and, in my view, put people off politics.

Clare Short actually brought into the public domain an area of Government that we all know is there but nobody ever admits too officially. In that sense she has started a valuable debate about how Government should behave towards us and towards the diplomats and citizens of other Countries. It is a shame that she did so after having been so utterly discredited and for such impure motives, because otherwise the machinery of Government would have been under greater pressure to respond in some detail instead of just shrugging it off. Something might even have changed as a result!

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