The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Strains Of Collective Government

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 22, 2010 @ 11:43

Pointing the finger, the cheeky bugger...

Watching last yesterday’s PMQs last night I was struck by the way Nick Clegg was behaving. He was straining hard to stick to the line of collective government, as is required by the constitutional conventions of this country.

And let me just add, they are sensible conventions, and are even more essential in a coalition. After all, Nick Clegg, just because it was his moment at the despatch box, couldn’t exactly go off on one about his own personal priorities and reverse carefully crafted government policy as agreed by various coalition committees on an ongoing basis.

But then again, why shouldn’t he? After all, as Paul Waugh has pointed out, other members of the government and the coalition parties feel free to go off the beaten track just a little.

So Cleggy did indeed decide to join them.

In truth, I don’t blame him. Faced by the appalling Jack Straw, who delivered a truly awful PMQs performance, something must have stirred in Nick Clegg. You could see his level of frustration rising in each subsequent answer. But not just that, a rather passionate anger at Labour’s record.

Jack Straw, during the Iraq War debacle, became something of a poster child for Labour’s pre-war prevarication, dithering, moveable justifications, legalese argument, ludicrous over-analysis and pretentious fake morality. Clearly, Nick Clegg had been paying attention during that time, and also to Jack Straw’s past and present illiberalism as a member of the government.

On his final trip to answer another Straw “question”, Nick just couldn’t resist

We may have to wait for his memoirs, but perhaps one day he will account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Well! That really did set the cat amongst the pigeons. So much for collective responsibility. The Tories next to him winced. The House murmured. Did he really just say that?

To those of us who opposed the Iraq War from day one, it was a truly joyous moment. Nick Clegg, from the government benches, standing at the despatch box, calling the Iraq War for what it was.

Sadly though, it was just a slip, and the press office immediately issued a clarification that he was “speaking in a personal capacity”. You can bet your bottom dollar that never again will a government member call the Iraq War illegal in full, in public, and very much on the permanent record.

But it was still fun to watch, and though collective responsibility is a source of exasperation to many – “why can’t they just say what they believe?” – its overall use is more of a positive than a negative, especially in a media age where every little slip is scrutinised to the nth degree.

Still, good on you, Nick!


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