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A little light fisking

The Observer has a leader on Blair at bay that merits the once over, so here is my shot at it:

Presumably, Yates does not see himself as heading a uniformed wing of political opposition to the head of government. If a crime is reported, the police must investigate and follow the trail wherever it leads. No one is above the law. But it is also good practice to recognise when an inquiry, if poorly run, could damage the standing of democratic institutions and undermine the Prime Minister who, like any citizen, has the right to be presumed innocent.

Ah, the ‘national good argument’. Very impressive. And what if said person might be said to have damaged 'the standing of democratic institutions'? What wins out in the battle of priorities?

Mr Yates last year promised MPs a focused and proportionate investigation. It has turned out otherwise.

Rather a contradiction to this earlier sentence: If a crime is reported, the police must investigate and follow the trail wherever it leads

One problem is that before solving any crime, police first had to establish that a crime was even committed. The 1925 act which prohibits the sale of titles was dormant, no higher a police priority than the law against eating the Queen's swans.

There are people alive who will remember that law coming in. This is not one of things from lists of legal oddities like it being open season in Chester on Welshmen at 2AM if armed with a bow and arrow. Also, a singularly inapt point of comparison, as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies found out in 2005.

Meanwhile, the correlation between munificence to a political party and receipt of honours was a fact of Westminster life.

So that makes it all fine and dandy does it?

That does not make it noble or even acceptable. But ancient rot in a system, allowing a corruption of a forgotten law is, above all, a reason for reform. It is not grounds to unseat a Prime Minister.

Forgotten law? Blair is a barrister, his wife is a barrister, and presumably they would have learnt in the first year of studies that Ignorantia juris non excusat lex. Or ignorance of the law is no defence. And the reform would be to allow the sale of honours would it? Or to give our pols French style immunity while in office?

If anyone in Mr Blair's entourage was foolish enough to draft a price list for honours, they would only have been codifying historic practice. The already established recipients of honours view that prospect as vulgar, but it is no different in principle to the nods and winks of a 'gentleman's agreement' that went unnoticed and immune to investigation by Scotland Yard for generations.

Back to the old ‘everybody else was doing it, s’not fair I’ve been collared’ ‘defence’. This is meant to be an argument, is it?

As it happens, there is still no evidence that a formalised system existed. So the police inquiry is focusing instead on the possibility that supposed evidence might have been concealed.

Formalised? So an informal system would be just fine?

After more than 10 months of sniffing around Downing Street, John Yates's reputation is staked on this inquiry.

No, he is doing his job.

He is in danger of looking like a political provocateur if, at the end of it all, there is no case to be brought. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's political opponents just want someone in Downing Street to be charged with anything, as if, like Al Capone, Mr Blair is a known villain who must be trapped by whatever legal means necessary.

This administration has politicised the police to an unprecedented degree, so for the biter to allege that it has been bit is chutzpah of the highest order.

But Tony Blair is not Al Capone. Nor is he Richard Nixon, who was caught red-handed in a cover-up of a proven and much more serious crime. That has not stopped people making the absurd comparison.

We shall see, shall we not?

The Liberal Democrat and Tory leaders have called on the Prime Minister to go, in Mr Cameron's case grandiosely invoking the 'national interest'.

He has already said he is going, and how is the national interest served by having a prime minister who is ‘known to the police’?

Mr Blair's departure date is roughly known. It may not come soon enough for some, too soon for others. But that is a matter of partisan opinion, not moral imperative. John Yates has been given ample freedom to do his job as a policeman. As long as there is no evidence of wrongdoing, Mr Blair should be allowed the same freedom to get on with his job as elected Prime Minister.

Imagine if you will The Observer writing this tendentious nonsense were it an ideological enemy in the police’s crosshairs?

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Blogger Praguetory said... 4:18 pm

A useful article, displaying the whole rainbow of Blairite excuses all lightly but efficiently extinguished by the master fisker. All hail Croydonian.  



Blogger Croydonian said... 4:24 pm

Thank you sir. Your number on La Toynbee is a masterpiece.  



Anonymous Voyager said... 5:34 pm

Roger Alton obviously has a K in mind but can't raise the funds and so hopes for a free one when Blair draws up his 'Lavender List'  



Blogger istanbultory said... 5:54 pm

While the disintegrating NuLabour project is focused on attacking the honours inquiry, it would seem the Yard has accumulated sufficient evidence to charge Levy, Turner and Sir Christopher Evans.
See here.
http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=184522007
Blair is history.  



Anonymous nick drew said... 8:37 pm

Good stuff, C.

Here's a little gem from a more innocent age, thrown up by my ramshackle cuttings system

"the cost of a Labour peerage [can be] guessed at around £200,000..."

Grauniad leader, 28.10.05

Amazing what people say when there's no police investigation en train  



Blogger CityUnslicker said... 9:36 pm

As you end so well C, "tendentious arguments."

How nice to see the boot is on the other foot these days.  



Blogger Tony said... 10:16 pm

An excellent piece of work C. I have not been one to 'take' the Guardian or the Observer previously, but recently they have become far more entertaining than Private Eye - even without intending to do so!  



Blogger marshajane said... 8:50 am

nice work C - cheers for posting the link here Praguetory.  



Blogger Praguetory said... 9:01 am

I didn't post the link, but anyway.  



Blogger Newmania said... 9:25 am

You know C I know one shouldn`t say so but I cannot help but think there is something in this. To be fair , to me ,I have never been that impressed with the dreadfulness of the crime and the whole business of an accusation and a botched cover up is an inglorious history .

Well at all events its sleaze is way donwn my list of complaints abou this governement. Nice quote from Drew !  



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