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27 February 2009updated 05 Oct 2023 8:51am

Straw Blogs

Cabinet discussions stay private and Bobby Jindal faces mockery, this week in the blogosphere

By Paul Evans

Mr Justice
Jack Straw may have changed his name to invoke a peasant’s revolt leader, but his decision to block the publication of minutes from key cabinet meetings in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq has stirred popular uprising among bloggers.

The tireless Chris Ames, posting on the Index on Censorship Free Speech Blog, neatly summarises the situation. Commenting on Conservative position on Straw’s decision, he noted the likely political expediency motivating their acquiescence:

“As with the Iraq war, Labour has the Tories for company on the wrong side of the argument. Tempted though the opposition may have been to call for Labour’s dirty washing to be aired in public, they are backing Straw. They are clearly preparing for government and do not want to feed expectations that they will make their own deliberations public.”

Chicken Yoghurt’s Justin McKeating was in no mood for temperate language. Highlighting Straw’s role as foreign secretary in facilitating the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he wrote that: “The ‘Justice’ version of Straw is merely protecting the right of cabinet ministers to be doormats for Prime Ministers to wipe their shitty shoes on”.

Support for Straw came from an unlikely quarter, Liberal Democrat Mat Bowles, who posted in defence of cabinet minutes remaining undisclosed, as “one of the basic principles of our Parliamentary democracy”. He argued that “if a precedent is set for Cabinet minutes to be revealed during a period in office, then full and frank discussion within Cabinet is threatened,” positing that to undermine the convention on the basis of a single case would be to “throw out the baby with the rather murky bathwater”.

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Meanwhile on the Wardman Wire, barrister Carl Gardner set out his position on both the case and the broader flaws in the Freedom of Information Act and in the ministerial veto. Proposing reform, he suggests that: “Cabinet minutes should only be disclosed if the Commissioner is satisfied, first that the public interest requires him to look at the minutes and consider their disclosure (this would be the case an applicant would have to make); and second, that their contents indicate that Parliament has been misled or cannot properly hold government to account unless the minutes are disclosed.”

Not the first time, Beau Bo D’Or lent weight to the popular belief that a picture is worth 1000 words, while Irfan Ahmed blogged on the other big Straw story – the hacking of the justice secretary’s email by Nigerian spammers.

“Imagine if Iain Dale’s or Guido’s blog was hacked and someone started slandering politicians and got the pair in serious trouble?” he wrote. Just imagine!

What have we learned this Week?

As Iain Dale observed, the longlist for the inaugural Orwell Prize for blogs has been announced. While there are some fine blogs listed (particularly those written by Alix Mortimer and Hopi Sen), the overlooking of Chris Dillow’s Stumbling and Mumbling strikes Best of the Politics Blogs as a grave omission.

Around the World

In the States this week, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal’s Republican response speech went down like a federally subsidised lead balloon. DC gossip blog Wonkette quickly skewered his attempt at a humorous attack on government investment in volcano monitoring…

Videos of the Week

More anti-Thatcher pop this week, as the NS marks 30 years since her ascent. Check out some of the tracks listed by Dan Trilling in Maggie’s playlist:

The Specials, “Ghost Town” (1981)
The Jam, “Town Called Malice” (1982)
Robert Wyatt, “Shipbuilding” (1982)
Pet Shop Boys, “Opportunities” (1985)
Billy Bragg, “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards” (1988)
Elvis Costello, “Tramp the Dirt Down” (1989)
Kirsty MacColl, “Free World” (1989)

Quote of the Week

“George Orwell would have blogged. Fact.”

Charlie Beckett of Polis.

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