Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bypassing Parliament

I'm going to raise this every time it happens, even if I bore you to death. Today the Daily Telegraph has published on its front page many of the details which will be contained in the Strategic Defence and Security Review and which be formally announced in Parliament by the Prime Minister this afternoon. Clearly they have been deliberately leaked to the Telegraph in advance.

This used to happen very often under the previous government. And those of us who believe that major decisions should first be announced to Parliament criticised them for it. A fat lot of good it did, but I had thought this government would be different. So far it hasn't been.

Some say that in the age of 24 hour news, it's ridiculous that announcements can't be made in the media. I disagree. Parliament is there for a reason and if this sort of this is routinely bypassed, no wonder Parliament's relevance to our national life is diminished.

If the Speaker takes the government to the cleaners this afternoon, he would be fully justified in doing so.

19 comments:

Lord Blagger said...

And there is no effect of pushing stuff to the media.

ie. We need less people in parliament because they are irrelevant.

Time for the axe.

52% of MPs committed fraud on the expenses. How about getting rid of those for a starter?

Simon Lewis said...

The government, when in opposition said they wouldn't do this. Still, the Lib Dems said they wouldn't increase tuition fees, but that hasn't stopped them signing up to it.
Usually govts wait a bit longer before breaking promises. This mob just got straight to it.
However, I agree totally with you Iain.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Agreed - there was far too much of this when Labour was in power, criticised by the Tories. Now in power themselves we are acting even less responsibly in relations with Parlaiment.

In any case it is politically unwise as there are no announcements left for Cameron to make and his opponents will be armed for the tussle. Bad gaming strategy.

James said...

I disagree, for two reasons: first, surely debate can be more effective if the MPs are given access to the information beforehand, rather than trying to wing it on the spot?

Secondly and more importantly, though, I think it should be communicated to us, the people who are expected to pay for it all, first; politicians are supposed to be the servants of the people, not the other way round, so we should take precedence.

Roger Thornhill said...

Well said.

On this point, Iain, you will never bore me to death.

BTW, if we have 24hr news, then it surely can be announced at 3.35am and still get covered.

I think the reason it is leaked to a pet channel is to secure a favourable review first, and so try and retain the initiative.

The Coalition appears to have feet of clay.

starfish said...

Anyone planning to compare what is in the newspapers with what is actually announced?

Just a thought

George said...

Ingrained habits.

One presumes that the actual announcement after the leaks doesn't sound and feel quite so bad.

But, the principle is quite clear, announcements of policy shopuld be made in the House and as a policy, that must be adhered to and the little garden gnome can jump up and down and castigate Cameron provided he includes the last administration in that castigation.

Tapestry said...

It is part of the way the government hopes to control the media. By ensuring favourable comment is rewarded with priority when it comes to news release, the media will start to compete to please, as it did for Alastair Campbell.

With 70% of the media ranged against the coalition (70%), this might prove a necessary tactic.

trevorsden said...

of far greater importance and indeed criminality is the state of the ministry of defence left to us by labour.

There is a £38 billion black hole in labours defence budget. Lets not underestimate the reason for the cuts. Presaging them is small beer in comparison.

P. Stable said...

"surely debate can be more effective if the MPs are given access to the information beforehand, rather than trying to wing it on the spot?"

But they haven't got "the information" beforehand, they've got the information that Andy Coulson has allowed a certain newspaper to have, filtered through said paper's editorial staff.

The Conservatives regularly wailed and gnashed their teeth about this when in opposition and someone should be tearing them a new one over it this afternoon.

All credit to Iain for being willing to point out their shortcomings.

Sres said...

@James, you really think that they wing what you see at PMQ's etc? It's a well rehearsed and scripted exchange.

As for leaks, I'd believe that there are those in government who are getting kickbacks for supplying this type of information.

It's no surprise really that the Daily Telegraph are in the thick of it.

Robert said...

What is the point of anything our parliament does when all the directives come straight from Brussels.

We are not talking about a defense review for the United Kingdom, but our contribution to the EU Defense Force. Since parliament has no say in these matters why should we be worried?

There is very little that our Westmister parish council can actually do without permission since Dave reneged on his promise along with the Brown and Clegg for a referendum on Lisbon. Why are you so surprised that parliament has so little relevance?

The power has gone. It's gone to Brussels. Game, set and match.

Mirtha Tidville said...

Why are you suprised Iain??...Cameron is merely emulating his hero Bliar.....Nuff said..

Ian said...

In a whipped parliament which only sits for 60 days a year, which is absorbed in yards of unnecessary legisation, there is no effective and continual scrutiny of government.

It no longer matters if announcemnets are in parliament or not. Some parliamentarians may complain about announcements to the media before the Commons, but in effect it makes no difference. In the long periods parliament is not sitting, government goes on, there is no one to hold them to account and announcements are made on a daily basis. I don't see MPs (one or two exceptions, eg former MP Chris Mullin) arguing for parliament to sit for more days.

Colin said...

If the details of the review have been leaked, as you suggest, then clearly a criminal offence has been committed.

Why don't you make a complaint to the Met? You have a media profile that would ensure your complaint was taken seriously.

sarahhayward said...

The other point is, that opposition parties get detail of announcements only 24 hours or less in advance. Pre-announcement in the media undermines the opposition's ability to do it's scrutinising job properly because the media rather than parliamentarians set the terms of the debate.

Officer Dibble said...

Completely agree with this. Governments choose to brief the media directly, and I suspect they're right that they can shape the story more if they do so - but in the process they completely undermine Parliament's role in national life.

Enlightened Despot said...

What about all those announcements made at the Conservative Party Conference. Governing parties always do this - shouldn't the Speaker step in and stop it?

eb said...

Why are you surprised that leaks continue? We have the self confessed "heir to Blair" in the chair.