Another Blair Interview - take a deep breath...


For those of you that missed it this morning, here is Tony Blair's 30 minute Iraq interview on Radio4.

No time right now, but it Fisks itself...

Make sure you have a big stick ready, to beat yourself over the head whilst you listen, it helps!

Iraq Troop Numbers - The Unasked Question


So, we're going to withdraw our troops and the US is increasing their troop levels. The obvious question is,if we are allies, why are we leaving and not reinforcing the US surge?

If anyone can find an 'official' answer we'd love to hear it. Unofficially though, is it because the UK military is horrified at the US tactics towards civilians which they believe has increased the insurgency?

Or is it because the Palace doesn't want photos of Prince Harry blasting away at Iraqi civilians all over the papers?

Or are we leaving in the hope of preventing a wipe out in the May elections and spoiling Gordon's ascension? Or all three?

Tony Gets Fingered


The World At One on Radio 4 leads with the latest missive from Tony Blair giving the finger to the public who had the temerity to sign the anti-ID cards e-petition. There are one or two discrepencies between his email and the ID cards legislation as passed and understood, which the LDs and Tories are jumping on with both feet.

Naturally I signed it up and looking through my Junk folder I find Mr. Blair's email (quite why my spam filter flags e-petition responses as Junk I don't know, but it's pleasing).

Here's Tony's latest:

I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.

Now, this is a new development - the Police aren't down as having the ability to do non-specific trawls of biometric information in the hope of finding a match and this opens up the prospect of having the boys in blue knock on your door because your fingerprints happen to be at the scene of a crime ten years or more previously (given the length of time before any substantial amount of the population will be fingerprinted. Fingerprints at the crime scene != criminal, of course, any more than DNA.

Idiot of a Home Office minister on now saying that fishing expeditions are 'nonsense', as the IPS staff will do it (oh great bloody safeguard). Surely no one want obstacles in the way of the police investigating crime (yes, we do, things like due process, intelligence led policing, proper detective work and not doing random dragnets of the population aren't trivial). She's trying to pretend it was in the original bill and the recent cost report (must check that).

It was Joan Ryan, of course. Hazel Blears lite, with all the arrogance and petulance of the real thing, but half the IQ.

More Lies, More War From Tony


Two weeks ago, on 6 February, Tony assured us over the long threatened strike against Iran:

Nobody's talking about military intervention in respect of Iran

Today we learn

US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure.

... BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies. Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.

A Message from Tony - Satire is truly dead...


This from Comment is Free, you couldn't make it up!

The million-strong e-petition against road pricing on the No 10 website is an opportunity, not because I share the petitioners' views - I don't - but because I know the country needs to have a full debate on how we tackle road congestion and this petition has helped spark it.

er, I thought you guys had decided how to tackle the failure of your government to deal with the transport crisis this country has faced for the last decade, and that it was to use Big Brother to tax the poor off the roads.

It's a sign of just how fast politics has changed in the last decade that, while I once was criticised for being a control freak, I now find myself under attack for allowing dissenting views on my own website.

Whoa, hold on a minute, "once criticised for being a control freak" - where did the past tense come from Tony?  Much of the criticism of the petition system has been fairly oblique, and much what I have seen of it has come from your own side!
Also, since when has the Downing St site been your own website...?

What it has given us is the ability, which was simply not there before, to engage with those who have signed the petition and with everyone else in the country

So us, the great unwashed are now of some relevance more than once every 5 years?  And the fact petitioning the government is now easier is a huge leap forward in the development of representative democracy in this country?  Unfortunately you have already pissed on that bonfire by telling us you are not going to take any notice of it.

Our country must gain from a more informed debate. For what's clear is the challenges we face are more complex than ever and that there are simply no easy answers - whether, for example, it's how we tackle climate change, provide affordable and sustainable pensions or secure future energy supplies.

Focus Tony, this is about road pricing... don't get to carried away...  just take another pill and wipe those flecks of spittle from your mouth.

I also strongly believe that the more people understand the nature and scale of the problems, the more likely we will as a country reach the right decisions on the way forward. So we should welcome debate and use every channel to engage with it.

Ah, that's better, the Tony we know and love.  Once we understand that you know what's best for us, we will come round.  As for welcoming debate, kinda depends what is being debated doesn't it Tone.  I love the fact your decisions are always the right ones.

In doing so we should also consider the implications for institutions that were established before the advent of the internet. The web offers people the chance to express their views at very little cost and, as this week has shown, generate a national debate at the click of a mouse.

Of course, you're right, it's pretty simple to add your name to a list with a click of a mouse, but I don't recall you taking any notice of up to 2 million people taking to the streets back in 2003 in protest against your failed adventure in Iraq.  I think you will agree, that took rather more effort on behalf of the participants.

Over the next few days, I will be sending out a response to everyone who has signed the petition against road charging, explaining the problems the country faces and why I believe road charging is surely part of the answer here as it is in many other countries.

I know, you're right, and we're wrong, and once you explain that to us, we will come round...

I'm not kidding myself that this will change people's views overnight. I am convinced, however, that the focus on this issue that the e-petition has brought about will help improve our understanding of the problems and the realisation that there are no cost-free answers.

Ah, I spoke to soon!  What you meant was you are going to tell us you are right, we're wrong, and you are going to go ahead anyway. 

And that surely has got to be good news for the health of our democracy and for the chances of our country coming up with the right and sustainable solutions to the long-term challenges we face.

Sorry Tony, this late in the game, I find it more than hard to believe you have [or ever had had] the slightest interest in the health of our democracy.  And as for sustainable solutions to the long term challenges we face, hasn't anybody told you, that hasn't got anything to do with you any more?

Initiatives, Initiatives, Initiatives


Counting the initiatives spewed out by Tony Blair and assorted hangers on is like trying to count the shells ejected from an Uzi in the grip of a crack-addled hoodlum.  Pointless and you really want to be somewhere else.  Over the last few days we've had

  • John Reid's two new prisons, which apparently are going to be funded by thin air (I suspect this was an attempt to paint Gordon Brown as soft on crime for refusing to fork out)
  • Tony wants to reduce waiting lists by making doctors more imaginative.  I like my doctors grounded in empirical reality, not working out how to make Tony look good.  I almost dread looking at NHS Blog Doctor to see his take.  Mind you, actually listening to medical professionals would be a start.  You can be as imaginative as you like but Tony will still be taking advice from private healthcare firms, Chai Patel and IT consultancies.
  • Tony's solution to teenage gun crime is to lock more children up.  Imaginative stuff there.
  • Tony's delighted to inform us that the Iraqis now 'take the lead' in security operations in Basra.  The Yorkshire Ranter begs to differ.  In any case, all this means is that some militia or other, probably pro-Iranian, has been given a bit more power.  Convenient timing.

All this is making absolutely no difference - Tony's pledge to resign if he was found to be 'damaging the party' looks like yet another porky pie.

Voters give the Tories a clear 13-point lead when asked which party they would back in a likely contest between Mr Brown, Mr Cameron and Sir Menzies Campbell. source

I'll leave the last word tonight to Richard Wilson, a man with a lot more experience than me, and whose words should give pause for thought to anyone who thinks it's not time to throw the remains of Tony Blair to the dogs:

The 70-year-old actor said it was Mr Blair's arrogance which angered him - "arrogance which makes him think he can stay, arrogance which makes him think he could run the country by himself".source

Another 28,000 People Ignored


28,000 people signed the petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme, one of the largest responses since the e-petition service was set up. The petition is now closed but the Prime Minister has decided to e-mail the people who signed up to tell them why he is going to ahead with the scheme anyway. The e-mail is too long to post here in full so I've just put in a few excerpts. I've saved the whole message as a pdf file which you can download from here. Needless to say the Prime Minister fails to acknowledge the abuse of civil liberties and privacy his scheme entails and the numerous experts and officials who have said that the scheme is impractical and too costly.

The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism. More importantly, this is also what our security services - who have the task of protecting this country - believe.

It will increase fraud. Hackers have already found a way to crack the security codes and clone biometric passports. Doing the same to ID cards shouldn't present a problem to them.

So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs - particularly the way the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad will soon need.

I thought fingerprinting was something that happened to suspected criminals when they are arrested, not everyone. My new Italian passport will last ten years and I can go anywhere with it. It has no biometric data or computer chips in it, and what's more it only cost 30 quid. Even without the new biometric data, my British passport cost more than double that some years ago.

In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card, should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life.

The difference is, of course, that store cards are voluntary, no shop has forced one on me. Also with the ID card and National Identity Register scheme more information can be added later, like medical details, despite an earlier promise not to include such information.

But first, it's important to set out why we need to do more to secure our identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities - up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. One in four criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much more difficult.

Er... no, not really. Terrorists and criminal gangs will carry on regardless, possibly with cloned ID cards.

Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID card and matching biometric record will be much harder. 

The EU-funded FIDIS (Future of Identity in the Information Society) has warned that implementation of the current generation of biometric travel ID will dramatically decrease security and privacy, and increase the risk of identity theft. Sounds like a gift to terrorists to me. This little exchange between David Davies and Joan Ryan last year is revealing; David Davies pointed out that Microsoft’s National Technology Office says that ID cards could “trigger massive identity fraud”, and one of the FBI’s leading identity fraud consultants said that the ID card could be replicated perfectly by criminals within six months. Joan Ryan's response is priceless.

Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or iris recognition for their staff. France, Italy and Spain are among other European countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. The introduction in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure we maximise the benefits to the UK.

Iris recognition has been dropped from British biometric plans because it has been found to be useless. Other countries will probably follow suit.

These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.

I'm not even slightly reassured. What exactly are these "strict safeguards"?

If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.

It is also the law-abiding majority who are losing valuable civil liberties. How much support there is for compulsory ID cards rather depends on how you ask the question doesn't it? I haven't even gone into the costs of this scheme, but needless to say I don't believe Blair's claim that it will cost less than £30. Sending an e-mail to the tens of thousands of people who signed a petition because they wanted this scheme scrapped, and telling them why their demands will be ignored isn't really a successful exercise in democracy. A referendum on the issue would give a far more revealing picture of national sentiment on the issue but we all know why Blair won't want to do that.

Blair's e-mail did also mention that James Hall, the official in charge of delivering the ID card scheme, will be answering questions on the Downing Street website on 5th March. So in another exercise in futility, we can put some questions to him. I wouldn't know where to start.

A Message from our dear leader to the STWC...

Stop the War Coalition is shocked but very pleased to receive this message from Prime Minister Tony Blair and to hear of his interview with award-winning peace campaigner Brian Haw:


Unfortunately, I can't join your national demonstration against my war policies in London on 24 February (see below for details), but I'm very pleased to hear that my record WAR - WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? will be featured at the protest. You can read my reasons for making this record, see my video for the song and find out how to buy it on this website:

If enough of you buy WAR - WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? it will go into the charts, which the media won't be able to ignore. This will spread the peace message and help bring the troops home. The record is available to buy now, either by texting PEACE1 to 78789 or by download at

Any profits made from the record will go to Stop the War Coalition and help them continue campaigning against my slavish support for George Bush and his warmongering, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and which George and I are now planning to spread to Iran. Please buy WAR - WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? and forward this message to everyone you can.

To publicise your demonstration and to promote my musical plea for peace, I have given an interview to the anti-war campaigner Brian Haw, which you can view here:

By the way, Stop the War tell me that coaches are coming from all over the country to be at Saturday's demonstration. It's very gratifying to hear that my reputation – what I call my legacy – can draw such huge crowds to the capital. You can find a coach in your area here:

I also hear that hundreds of thousands of leaflets and postcards will be distributed across London this week and that Wednesday 21 February has been designated LEAFLET THE TUBES day, when Stop the War hopes to publicise its demonstration at every tube station in the city. Anyone who wants to help or leaflet their neighbourhood or workplace, should contact 020 7278 6694 for leaflets or postcards.

I'm very pleased to learn that you have organised THE DEBATE PARLIAMENT WON'T HAVE on 20 March 2007 – exactly four years after George and I invaded Iraq. MPs, politicians from the USA, a range of experts, campaigners and other witnesses will discuss the Iraq war and its consequences. I'm afraid I won't be able to join you, as it's my policy never to be present when the Iraq war is discussed seriously. Judging by what an easy ride my war policies have had in parliament, this seems to be the policy for most MPs too. (See below for details of March 20 event.)

I do of course wish your demonstration on 24 February every success (not). You will be representing the vast majority in this country who have always opposed my warmongering and I've always said that my government should be the voice of the people.

Yours, as nauseatingly hypocritical as ever,

Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

via Stop the War Coalition

European Parliament To Vote On CIA Torture Flights Report *UPDATED*


The European Parliament will vote today on the report which slams some member states for collusion with the CIA in rendition flights. Last year MEPs set up a temporary committee to investigate the complicity of some European countries and found that 14 of them had at best turned a blind eye, and at worst colluded with CIA activities. Britain was singled out for its lack of co-operation with the committee as well as being one of the countries accused of colluding in the rendition flights. Italy and Germany are also heavily criticised.

It was only late in January this year that Margaret Beckett admitted that the Government knew about the secret prisons to which the CIA  transported suspected terrorists. Ten countries are said to have allowed flights in and over their territory and Britain is near the top of the list beaten only by Germany in the number of stopovers allowed.

  • Germany 336
  • Britain 170
  • Ireland 147
  • Portugal 91
  • Spain 68
  • Greece 64
  • Cyprus 57
  • Italy 46
  • Romania 21
  • Poland 11

In order to secure the vote of the British Labour group in the European Parliament, the criticisms of Geoff (Buff) Hoon, who was particularly evasive, had to be dropped.

The British Labour group in the parliament is now prepared to vote in favour of the report which criticises the Labour government in the UK but only after specific and personal criticisms of the Europe minister, Geoff Hoon, were dropped.

Hoon's evasiveness however, is a matter of record. If the report is approved, it will be uncomfortable for Tony Blair who, as we know,  doesn't like talking about this issue.


The European Parliament has approved the report.

The EU parliament voted to accept a resolution condemning member states who accepted or ignored the practice [of rendition].

An Inspector Calls... Again


News is just coming out that Tony Blair has been interviewed for a second time by police in relation to the cash for peerages scandal. He was interviewed as a witness and not under caution last Friday but managed to keep it a secret until now because of a news blackout. More details should emerge soon.

I Fought The Law and The Law Lost


As Blair's power evaporates we're going to get some treats as the old gang try to save their skins and switch over to the Brownies. The fall out over the honours inquiry is also getting people jittery.

In short, we can expect lots of leaks. Today Lord Goldsmith's team are explaining the dropping of the BAE bribery investigation, claiming a big boy did it and ran away.

It is hard to reconcile the two versions of the story. In the official version the Head of the SFO alone decided to drop the case after being advised that there wasn't enough evidence for a prosecution.

In the latest version, Lord Goldsmith thought that there was enough evidence to charge against the former head of BAE Sir Dick Evans. In a move that compromised his integrity and independence, he told the SFO to offer a plea bargain to BAE in return for dropping 'politically embarrasing' further investigations.

Last night Lord Goldsmith was sticking to the official version, one that contradicts charters signed with the OECD. He's given a darkly comic interview to the Financial Times where he's on the ropes and gasping for air:

FT: You have sent rather an inconsistent message. You have said to the SFO: ”Don’t investigate Saudi Arabia. Do investigate Tanzania and South Africa.”

Goldsmith: I haven’t said to the SFO: “Don’t investigate.” And I really think it’s about time if only in fairness to the SFO, never mind me, that the director of the SFO has said very, very clearly, and his assistant director said very clearly to the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] in Paris this week, that it was they who took the decision

You look strained. I know they have said the same thing to you because you have reported it. I didn’t pressure them. And I didn’t direct them. It was their decision. I have said on a couple of occasions now, precisely for the reasons you have given, that this is not entirely comfortable. I am confident it’s the right decision. I don’t mean in any sense it’s not the right decision. I believe it is and I will explain why.

But it’s uncomfortable precisely because some people are interpreting it, or might interpret it, as meaning we are going soft on our approach to tackling corruption. We are not...

... I want everyone to understand, particularly the business community, that nobody is above the law, BAE is not above the law.

... But I do not believe that when we signed up to the OECD convention we intended to abdicate all responsibility for our own national security. I can’t believe that we were agreeing to abandon any considerations of national security. That is, the lives of our citizens, ultimately putting them in jeopardy. And I don’t believe...

FT: You think lives were at risk?

Goldsmith: This is absolutely the position. Just let me finish, if you don’t mind, because I don’t believe that when we signed up to the OECD convention, article 5, we were agreeing to say considerations of national security don’t enter into this at all. Commercial considerations, ordinary diplomatic relations, fine, but not actual considerations of national security. I can’t believe any other member state did that either.

... The SFO accepted that they wouldn’t prosecute in relation to pre-2002 because that’s when we changed the law. They said they would need another 18 months to investigate. They were clear that there remained, as they put it, issues to determine. My judgement was there were obstacles they would not overcome.

FT: What were those obstacles?

Goldsmith: The principal obstacle, BAE were asserting that the payments they were making had been authorised at the highest level.

FT: The highest level of the Saudi monarchy?

Goldsmith: Yes, the Saudis. I am using that in a general sense ... [pauses] ... Normally to produce a corruption case you normally will call somebody senior from the company to say, “good heavens, I never knew the marketing director was taking used £50 notes, or getting a free subscription to the golf club, or having his roof done”, or whatever it may be. That’s the first person you call. How were the SFO going to deal with that in this case? Were they going to be able to call someone from Saudi to say this wasn’t authorised? That’s an insuperable problem.

... FT: Can we go back and trace through some of the details of this case. How were concerns expressed to the SFO?

Goldsmith: I haven’t got the precise chronology in my mind so I can’t quite do this at the moment. I did a perfectly proper exercise, which is called a Shawcross exercise, which was first done a year ago and which didn’t lead to the case being dropped. That wasn’t focusing on national security. Subsequently, it was clear from the prime minister and other senior ministers what the national security concerns were.

FT: Essentially that the Saudis would cut all intelligence cooperation and security co-operation? [Goldsmith nods] Did you see anything in writing saying that from the Saudis?

Goldsmith: Well, we would hardly expect to see it from the Saudis. It wasn’t communicated to me. It was communicated to the British government at the highest level.

FT: I am just trying to see how the government became aware of it. It doesn’t seem that senior members of the security services were aware of it.

Goldsmith: I don’t think that’s right, actually. Because, as I made very clear in my statement [on January 18], and SIS absolutely signed up to the statement I made about this, nobody disagreed. Everyone shared the concerns about the possible consequences, i.e. the value to national security and nobody disagreed that the Saudi threats were real.

The Saudi threats are not being made to the intelligence service. They are being made to the government. Really, you wouldn’t expect me to go into any more detail than that. That’s the reality of the situation.

Read the whole thing, it is very interesting.

Harriet Harman is breaking ranks by saying what is on a lot of people's minds:

It is a contradiction in terms to have an accountable office-holder who is not able to publish to those whom he is accountable the advice he has given. It is not enough for government ministers to say we are advised that it is lawful. Backbenchers, let alone the wider public, want to see for themselves what the arguments are.

Lord Lester the Lib Dem peer sticks a rather elegant boot in to Goldsmith and the Brownies are plotting away in the gloom.

It is looking like the bunch of swindlers and chancers at the core of New Labour may implode very publicly.

Blair And The Death Penalty


Remember just before and after Saddam Hussein was lynched how both Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett droned on about Britain's opposition to the death Penalty? The lynching was tricky for them as they helped bring it about so all they could do was reiterate some tired old rhetoric about it being a sovereign Iraqi decision and justice being done, Saddam held to account etc. It's worth looking at a recent statement (16 January 2007) by Margaret Beckett just so we are left in no doubt about Britain's position:

My hon. Friend will know that the British Government strongly oppose the death penalty and continue to make representations where we see that it is being carried out. The events to which he referred only highlight one of the many reasons that I think lay behind the wise decision of this House to abolish capital punishment in this country.

Fast forward to today and surprise surprise this appears in the Independent: Britain blocks Italy's bid to ban death penalty

Italy's latest attempt to galvanise the world into rejecting the death penalty began when Marco Panella, an MEP and civil rights campaigner, went on hunger strike after hearing that Saddam Hussein was to be executed. Abolishing capital punishment is one of the few issues on which all parties in Italy's ruling centre-left coalition agree, and Mr Pannella's campaign prompted Mr Prodi to take up the challenge of putting the proposal before the UN's General Assembly. But when his Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema, tried to obtain backing for the proposal at the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels last week, Britain shot it down.

British diplomats said privately that they did not wish to create difficulties for the United States at a delicate time and they did not believe it was possible to do it now. Holland, Denmark and Hungary subsequently took the same view.

It is the second time that Tony Blair's government has torpedoed Italian efforts to spread Europe's confirmed aversion to capital punishment across the world. The first was in 1999, when a last-minute British "no" killed the initiative.

So not just once but twice since Blair has been in power has he stopped efforts to abolish capital punishment world wide, the first time being before 'The War on Terror', the Iraq war and the London bombings which prompted his "rules of the game are changing" speech in 2005. Even if Blair is about to stand down, isn't it about time he was questioned a bit more thoroughly on the issue so we know exactly where he stands?

An Unlikely Alliance


Clare Short and the Tories have joined forces to take the government to task over its involvement in the corrupt BAE deal with Tanzania to sell the country an over priced military radar system in 2001. The debate will take place in the House of Commons this evening.

This deal was personally backed by Tony Blair who over-ruled the objections of Gordon Brown, Clare Short and the World Bank. BAE is said to have bribed a middleman with a secret payment of $12 million put into a Swiss bank account. In the capital Dar es Salaam there are protests with demonstrators demanding the arrests of those involved with the deal. The SFO, still mightily miffed from having their investigation into the Al Yamamah corruption unceremoniously squashed, are in Tanzania investigating.

I guess we can take it for granted that Tony won't be at the debate but it might be worth following, if only to see the spectacle of the Tories (now firmly against corruption) working with Clare Short.

Lord Puttnam Gets His Payoff


Many folk were surprised to see Lord Puttnam touring the TV studios in order to criticise the Met for having the temerity to investigate Blair. As a prime luvvie, one suspects there is some 'motivation' here, but the guy already has his peerage, so what could possibly embolden him to make a rare media circuit?

Ah. Perhaps this: Puttnam lined up to succeed Grade as chairman of the BBC.

Mystery solved.

MPs Inquiry into Cash for Peerages To Go Ahead Even If No Charges Are Made


It's been known right from the start of the cash for peerages scandal that there would be an MPs inquiry into this sordid affair and that it has been put on hold while the police complete their investigation. While most of the attention has been on the developments in that investigation, it looks as if the Commons Public Administration Committee inquiry might also be quite interesting when it begins.

The committee chaired by Tony Wright, a senior Labour backbencher, plans to call Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who is heading the investigation, as a "star witness" and is prepared to question in public the key figures in the controversy, including high-profile Labour donors and senior Downing Street aides.

The committee is also prepared to call Jonathan Powell, Ruth Turner and John McTernan as well as Gulam Noon, Chai Patel, Barry Townsley, and Sir David Gerrard. The committee's inquiry will go ahead even if the police inquiry does not lead to charges being made. This is important because Tony Blair's friend Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, feels that he can be impartial enough to have a say on whether or not charges are made and has refused to relinquish his right to intervene in the inquiry.

"No other minister, however distinguished or senior, has the ability to bind the attorney general in how he exercises his role," Lord Goldsmith said.

Lord Goldsmith's impartiality has been exposed as a sham on previous occasions, notably in his revised decision to declare the invasion of Iraq legal and in his decision to support Blair in closing the SFO investigation into the corruption surrounding BAE and the Al Yamamah deal. In other words he could potentially scupper chances of the case going to court. The MPs inquiry might not be able to make charges but it will be public and as it's a cross-party committee it can't be interfered with in the same way.

It will be interesting to know when the Commons Public Administration Committee can begin its inquiry, although like the police investigation it will probably reach its conclusions once Blair has stepped down.