Friday, July 18, 2003

Which "-Gate" will this one get?

As is well known, all scandals are given a designation ending in -GATE in much the same way as tropical cyclones are given names and US invasions are given codenames according to where they occur. (Ops. DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, DESERT FOX - all Iraq, Ops. INFINITE REACH and INFINITE JUSTICE were both Afghanistan. In case you've forgotten, REACH was the 1998 raid on Afghanistan that missed Osama bin Laden by 40 minutes. And everyone back then accused Bill Clinton of starting a war to distract attention from Monica's dress stains. Don't those Republicans have short memories? Pity about the Sudanese aspirin factory though. INFINITE JUSTICE, the invasion, was named on the principle that everything to do with Afghanistan was INFINITE, but the name was changed after a public outcry. Outcries against the names of military offensives - it's a strange world...) More recently, of course, the Tories had Iraqgate, Labour had Cheriegate, and the Lib Dems decided the word gate was offensive to the gateless. But what will they call the worsening furore about Mr. Blair and the War of No Reason? Weaponsgate? Dossiergate? Campbellgate?

Yesterday was bad enough, with the rigged select committee hearing in which Mr. Gilligan was dragged into a private session with only the government members present. Truly an Old Labour, union boss way of winning an argument - call the meeting when they're least expecting it and the right people only are present. But it is no way for a parliamentary body to behave. When the hearings began, hopes were high that the Foreign Affairs Committee would do the deed. But they have managed to become so captured by government as to be absurd. The nobbled committee hearing was an exercise in the rare pastime of political self-castration - what kind of democratic control is this sorry bunch now meant to offer? But today's news wasn't so much the last straw as the last steel girder dropping from a great height on this poor camel. Dr David Kelly, weapons inspector and alleged whistleblower, has been found dead in (as they say) mysterious circumstances. Surely, surely, surely, someone will now be punished? A judicial inquiry has been promised - it is amazing how much we are coming to rely on the judges to keep the politicians in check. Good luck, Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot - you'll need it...

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