Traitors in high places at home

Yesterday we heard how New Labour bullied the Civil Service into doing their political dirty work for them. John Baker was ordered by his superiors to mislead grieving relatives of war dead about the safety of equipment issued to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such abuses have become standard practice under this Government, to the point where they now threaten to undermine public trust in the whole political system. When it to power in 1997, it made no secret of the importance it attached to news manipulation. However, spin meisters like Mandelson and Alastair Campbell were not enough. In recent years it has forced civil servants to tell lies as well. Tony Blair set the ball rolling but Gordon Brown, far from cleaning things up as he promised, has continued resolutely down the same road. Instead of providing impartial, factual information, official press releases are stuffed with tendentious party propaganda, massaged statistics and disinformation against political opponents. Now the families of soldiers who died because of faulty equipment finally know what they have always suspected. That Gordon Brown and his officials were lying when they assured them that the kit was safe while knowing all along that it was not. It is a process that undermines the whole principle of a Civil Service able to ‘speak truth unto power’ without fear or favour. It rules out any possibility of the straight, impartial advice that all governments need, because officials now give ministers only the advice they think the minister wants to hear. It is the modus operandi of megalomaniac dictators and it serves the country ill. Tony Blair, who described himself as ‘a straight kind of a guy’, took the country to war in the Middle East on the basis of a promise that he was telling the truth about the information he had at his disposal. But if Gordon Brown came to the country now with the same message, would we give him the benefit of the doubt? Not a chance. Quite simply, we can no longer believe a single word that comes out of our Prime Minister’s mouth. And that is a tragedy not just for Gordon Brown, but for democracy itself.

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