Off Message: The Complete Antidote to Political Humbug
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Tony Blair's least favourite colleague casts a mordant eye on whips and rebels, wars and liberties, spin and patronage, and expenses and legacies - and at the same time delivers a passionate message about parliament's enduring value. This subversive and richly comical account of British political life during New Labour's term in office presents an intimate picture of what it was like to be its most prominent dissident member. Bob Marshall-Andrews looks at the sombre events of the last thirteen years including wars in Kosovo and Iraq, sustained assaults on ancient English liberties, and the worst scandal of recent political history. He reveals the stories that lie behind them and the Westminster dramas of intrigue, triumph and disaster. He describes the delights and trials of his work as constituency MP and examines his own and others' motives for entering politics: should the ambition, he asks, be to achieve power or to control it. Bob Marshall-Andrews breathes new life into the old values of libertarian socialism. "Off Message" is as provocative and entertaining as its author's campaigns and interventions.
number of sinister political dimensions which I discovered and analysed slowly in the course of the next thirteen years. First, of course, it elevated the status of the Whips and the Party machine to that of an employer. As I came to repeat on many occasions (to the annoyance of my friends), a Member of Parliament is employed by no one, and least of all by the Party machine. Winston Churchill once observed that he had three priorities as a politician. The first was his country, the second was
would be delighted to serve under his chairmanship and he said he would put me on his list to be suggested to the Whips. We parted on our usual good terms. It was a not altogether unsurprising invitation. The Labour Party was singularly bereft of QCs (I was the only one) or Recorders of the Crown Court (likewise). I felt I had something to bring to the party and looked forward to making a contribution on the legal and civil libertarian issues that were bound to be part of the committee’s
Cherie Blair’s public comment that young Palestinians could be hopelessly driven to be bombers would have amounted to a crime. I put this forcibly to Charlie, both before and during the debate. On both occasions he rejected the obvious construction of the Bill and simply stated ‘it was not the Government’s intention that it should cover such matters’. This was to become a recurring justification of New Labour ministers; namely, that the Government’s intention would, by some mystic means, overcome
the view that resolution 1441 is sufficient to revive resolution 678, as Saddam Hussein is in material breach of his obligations to disarm. The doubts and reservations expressed in writing a week previously totally disappeared. On the same day the Attorney General attended Cabinet. The Cabinet was informed verbally that, in his view, the war was legal. No equivocation was advanced and no doubts were expressed. Critically, no one in the Cabinet was informed of the existence of written opinion
Similarly if its policy and raison d’être shift to the centre ground then the legitimacy of the whip ultimately gives way to the dictates of conscience. To support a government simply on the basis of its brand name is barren and dishonest politics. ‘And yet, of course, the acquiescence of the House of Commons is essential. The result of this paradox is potentially disastrous as Parliament is simultaneously ignored and rigorously controlled. If one superimposes the proclivity of this executive to