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Parliament’s failure to investigate Tony Blair

Montesquieu: as naive as any other anglophile.

Montesquieu: as naive as any other anglophile.

Every single mainstream media outlet has today reported that a Parliamentary motion to investigate Tony Blair for misleading Parliament in order to win support for the invasion of Iraq has been defeated by 439 votes to 70.

In reality the motion put forward by the SNP was, contrary to all media reports, modest in the extreme. You may read all 145 words of it here: it is fourth on the prayers list. It amounts to little more than an appeal for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is currently examining the “lessons learned” from the Chilcot Inquiry, to pay particular attention to the misleading information Tony Blair gave to Parliament. That is all.

Some commentators have argued the thumping defeat of this motion by both Labour and the Conservatives reflects nothing more than the animosity both share towards the SNP. That argument could be true, which I very much doubt, and it would still reflect appallingly on the British Parliament. Probably it is no more then the reflexive apologia emitted by the mainstream media whenever a story demands they condemn the establishment.

Every single qualifying law degree in the UK has a public law module, and as far as I am aware, every single one of these public law modules teaches the importance of the separation of powers in maintaining any constitutional system. The executive, the legislature, and the judiciary must be independent. Indeed, their independence has been accepted since the days of Montesquieu. Well, it is about time this error was corrected.

Our legislature does not hold our executive to account. This mechanism, it it ever worked at all, has by now comprehensively failed. One may argue about the precise importance and validity of the reasons why it has failed, but its failure is incontestable. One could talk about party politics, and the payroll vote, and so on. Much has been said about these matters by commentators far more expert than I. But since the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has possessed the biggest membership of any political party in Europe, and I am sure this membership is, for the largest part, adamant that Blair receives the fullest possible condemnation for his singular role in the invasion of Iraq. Despite this, they cannot convince their parliamentary members, including Corbyn himself, to vote accordingly.

It is about time the textbooks were rewritten, otherwise law will become an academic subject as untrustworthy as economics. Parliament does not hold the government to account. Far from it. Parliament is a kind of public theatre where parties compete to appear equally credible to a corporate media. Peter Oborne was correct to write that there is now a political class. For those of us outside this class, our chief task lies in removing it, and the system that upholds it. Whatever we may individually believe, whether we are left-wing or right-wing, Brexit or remain, Sanders or Trump: we have to rescue our representative democracies from the fatal grip of the political class.

 

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