Monday, April 30, 2007

Response to YouTube interview with Blair on Iraq

This blog makes a slight change of direction with more on my own views about the UK. As mentioned previously, in the USA there is now more agreement in opposition to the war. The Democrats have a fairly coherent view. Dan Froomkin is less isolated than previously.

In the UK we still have a Labour Party sticking to the idea that Bush and Blair were right all along, except for the not WMD turning up, and that there is no issue about Iraq in any local elections. I find this annoying, as I used to vote Labour and have tried to communicate during local and European elections why I have voted for the Liberal Democrats since 2003.

The Labour Party now has a YouTube channel. When it started they claimed it would allow for direct communication without the "media" who are alleged to be the source of questions about Iraq etc. There were many comments about Iraq anyway and there is still no video from the Foreign Secretary. Maybe this will change after the elections later this week.

The format has broken new ground for YouTube so that Tony Blair answers a selection of questions put by an interviewer. Not quite back to a TV format as John O'Farell is a former Labour candidate and is clearly sympathetic.

He did ask about Iraq though. There could have been further questions. If the war was started for regime change, why was this not stated at the time? What was the legal advice? Why was a second UN resolution asked for at one stage? What was the scope of the enquiries Blair refers to? Why did the Scottish Nationalists put a motion for an enquiry into when the UK made it clear to Bush that a war would be supported?

My own question about the current Al Jazeera leak trial was not mentioned. No surprise there. But this illustartes what seems to me an unfortunate consequence of the Iraq policy, a weakened civic space in the UK. According to a Daily Mirror report there was a talk about bombing Al Jazeera. David Blunkett has spoken to Channel 4 about "taking out" Al Jazeera. There is very little discussion about this in the UK.
The Associated Press has included the context of the Daily Mirror story in reporting the Official Secrets Act trial but the Times, BBC and Guardian have yet to do so.

The Guardian is just a bit elusive in connecting the Iraq issue and the Labour vote. This is a blog so I don't mind generalising a bit from a selection.

Jackie Ashley, today-

One cabinet minister tells me that a typical conversation has gone: "How are you voting?" "Dunno." "Have you ever voted Labour?" "Oh yes, always." "So what's the problem?" "Dunno."

One more selection, Polly Toynbee last week

Listening to the sounds and the silences on the doorstep is a salutory reminder that politics is not only about policy but also about atmosphere and mood. Ask what exactly Labour has done wrong and few mention the war, some mention immigration but most put their finger on nothing so specific. Ignorance of almost everything can be breathtaking, but the general leakage of trust is a warning that Labour's time could be up.

My guess is that for whatever reason, the war is a much bigger issue that the Labour Party or friendly journalists are making out.

Here is a short extract from a news item in the Daily Record, published in Scotland.


JACK McCONNELL last night urged Scots not to let Iraq cloud the issue of how they vote in the Holyrood poll.

But SNP leader Alex Salmond hit back, saying 146 British soldiers had died in Iraq, "the latest one today, many of them Scottish.

"Tony Blair is coming back to Scotland one last time. That's one last opportunity to say to the people, 'I apologise for misleading us into a war in Iraq'."

You know what? Alex Salmond has got a point. I wonder how the Scottish results will be reported in England.


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