Hague announces “judge-led” torture inquiry

How much of the inquiry will be heard in public, and does David Miliband have anything to worry abou

The Foreign Secretary, William Hague (typing that still feels strange), has said that he will order a "judge-led" inquiry into allegations that the UK's security services were complicit in torture.

This is a very positive step, and puts into practice something that both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives called for in opposition following the Binyam Mohamed case.

Essentially, the allegation is that British security services and the British government subcontracted torture -- sending UK residents and citizens abroad, where they knew they were likely to face torture, even if they did not specifically recommend it.

It is not clear yet what form the inquiry will take. Hague said only:

We will be setting out in the not-too-distant future what we are going to do about allegations that have been made into complicity in torture. We will make a full announcement that we are working on now. We want a judge-led inquiry.

A key question will be how much of the inquiry is heard in public. The high court battle to get the Foreign Office to share evidence in the Mohamed case suggest that it will primarily take place behind closed doors.

While the new government will be keen to avoid the accusation of a whitewash in this attempt to demonstrate a break with the past, there will be a strong national interest defence for keeping key details private. The secret services are not shy about employing this.

Writing in the Guardian, Ian Cobain is hopeful, noting that:

It is expected to expose not only details of the activities of the security and intelligence officials alleged to have colluded in torture since 9/11, but also the identities of the senior figures in government who authorised those activities.

While the first senior figure that springs to mind is, of course, Tony Blair, there are others with more at stake. What about David Miliband? Any responsible inquiry will have to ask what he -- and the then home secretary, Alan Johnson -- knew about the practice of rendition established in the Blair/Bush era, and whether they did anything about it.

Today, Johnson declared his withdrawal from frontbench politics. Miliband, currently the front-runner for the Labour leadership, has rather more at stake. When it comes to the murky area of torture and rendition, he certainly does not want to be tarred as the heir to Blair.

Special offer: get 12 issues of the New Statesman for just £5.99 plus a free copy of "Liberty in the Age of Terror" by A C Grayling.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution