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Retired UK General : Impeach Blair

by Francois in Paris Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 02:05:34 PM EST

Spotted in a post by Chris in Paris over at AMERICAblog. It looks like some in the British top brass are mighty pissed at their beloved civilian leader, PM Tony Blair.

From the original article in the Independent :

[snip]

General Sir Michael Rose, who led United Nations forces in Bosnia, said the Prime Minister should not be allowed to "walk away" from misleading Parliament. General Rose, whose disquiet is believed to be shared by a number of present and past members of the military hierarchy, declared Mr Blair's actions had been "disastrous" and that he had hidden the true motive for going to war from Parliament and the public.

[cut]

[General Rose says] "The politicians should be held to account, and my own view is that Blair should be impeached. That would prevent politicians treating quite so carelessly the subject of taking a country to war."

[snap]

Wow...


So, to all British members of the EuroTribe, any idea if this is going to serious play in the UK? How influential is the military in public debates on the other side of the Channel?

Others can chime in of course but general purpose Brit-bashing is not allowed today. Only authorized target is Tony Blair.

Oh, err, and Marmite bread spread of course [almost forgot that one, silly me].

Be nice

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Well, so far it's not getting much play in the rest of the media here in the UK.

In fact, there have been rumblings from retired generals and the like for quite a while now, but nothing has caught on. I doubt this will either as whilst it is clear to those who think about it that Parliament and the country were misled, there are plenty who are willfully blind about the matter. Also, the government has done a good job of obscuring the evidence. I might know with reasonable certainty that they attempted to mislead me, but I doubt I could prove it to a legal standard.

The other issue is that "impeachment" is a an old strange legal action in the UK, last used in 1806? I think and thus much less likely to catch the imagination of the public and MPs the way the word does in the US.

Of course, that's not to say that it's not the right course of action, all the other ways of dealing with a rogue Prime Minister are essentially unofficial.

However, Tony Blair is seemingly on his way out anyway, so it's unlikely that the majority party would want to risk a big embarrassment of any kind. They would rather let the succession proceed calmly.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 02:43:31 PM EST
Are you familiar with ImpeachBlair.org? The original paper "A Case to Answer" has a very interesting discussion of the history of impeachment in the UK, and its relevance today even if it hasn't been used for almost 200 years.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 02:45:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read "A case to answer" when they first published it and I do agree that there are good grounds to consider impeachement a releavant and suitable tool for this situation.

However, what I meant to say was that I think the long unused nature of the law presents "public relations" and "political attention span" problems in actually making it happen.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 02:52:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm asking 'cause I know that if a recently retired non-political high brass in the US was to say the same thing about GWB, it would be a very big splash. Suddenly, the media would not be able to dismiss talks of impeachment as crank-cases rambling, as they do now.

But them Americans are very besotted with their Army (a bit too much for their own good, in my opinion).
by Francois in Paris on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 03:04:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ritter and I couldn't agree more...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 03:05:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ritter?
by Francois in Paris on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 04:05:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Ritter, not Scott, but the ET reader.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 11:09:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I wasn't clear, sorry. UK generals don't have quite the status that US generals seem to have, so it won't have the same political impact, in my opinion.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 03:21:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, good! That means that Brits are nearly reasonable people. Now, if they could shake off that Marmite thing, we would even have to welcome them in Europe.

... oh wait! Darn! Too late!

[I said Marmite was fair game]
by Francois in Paris on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 04:05:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heathen!

Bow before the mighty Marmite monster, Lord of all creation...

um.. well... moving on...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 04:19:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi all, I must say I am a little disappointed that this story only shows up today. If you would read the Breakfast threat on European Tribune, you would have been aware of this story on January 9, even a day before it was printed in the Independent and the Guardian. Sorry, I just couldn't resist to mention it.:-)

Here the link

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 05:05:15 PM EST
What's the point of impeachment in a parliamentary democracy?  You want a PM out in the UK then all you need to do is to either convince a majority of Labour MP's to dump him or enough Labour MP's to join with the Conservatives and LD's to vote for a no-confidence motion.  If you can't do that then you surely can't actually impeach Blair.  The talk of impeachment in Britain over the past year or two seems like a silly side effect of spending too much time thinking about American politics.
by MarekNYC on Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 09:47:58 PM EST
Agreed.  And, looking at the ImpeachBlair.org site, it seems that the "cross-party support" only involves a group of Tories and a few members of smaller parties (SNP, Plaid, etc.).  It's going to take more than a few Tories, two Libs and George Galloway to push Blair out.

I think some of you all ("y'all"?) are overestimating the impact of generals on American politics, today.  None have received the attention they deserve.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 12:21:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Individual impeachment became redundant when the principle of "Cabinet responsibility" was adopted. This means that once a decision is taken in Cabinet, its members, the senior Government ministers, accept collective responsibility for that decision.  The vote of no confidence therefore applies to that larger group of people and would usually precipitate a general election.

In the case of the Iraq War, it is quite clear that there was neither proper discussion within Cabinet and that they were not given the information that precedent would normally require. A well known example of this was the "Downing Street Memo" where Cabinet was only shown the eviscerated Opinion from the Attorney General instead of the entire background where the caveats surrounding the legality were listed.

As with much in the unwritten British constitution and English Common Law, these rules are matters of convention and normal practice.  The Blair goernment has overthrown many of these. Another example is Ministerial responsibility. In this case where a decision made by a Government minisry is shown to be seriously and perversely wrong, the minister in charge would usually resign. An example might very well be the case of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who has  responsibility for local government and constitutiona affairs. One of his perks is a free (2grace and favour") apartment and he assumed that this included the public paying the "Council Tax"  for it. As the minister responsible for the scheme he should have known that this was not the case and has just been forced to pay back 8 years of tax he should have already paid. Actually it is not surprising that he failed to understand as he is a semi-articulate thug, prone to using his fists and uttering such malapropisms as "The political teutonic plates have moved" In the past this embarrasing failure to pay tax would have meant he offered to resign but with this government the only reason seems to be if you are caught in semi-corrupt practice (Peter Mandleson and his mortgage, David Blunkett and his lover's nanny's visa) or embarassing sex scandals (David Blunkett)  

With many of the recent conventions overthrown, it is right to go back to the earlier procedures of individual impeachment in cases of "high crimes"

by Londonbear on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 07:16:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Labour party had their chance at their latest Conference in October (?). Having gained a majority of the seats in parliament only months before and knowing this was despite Blair's, that was the time.

I think Labour needs to lose the next election, as much as I will hate seeing the tories in power.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 07:34:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The very real problem with that is Cameron has some seriously hard-right edges on him, notably on immigration policy and Europe. Thus, it's hard for me to agree with you.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 11:19:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour needs a stint in opposition. When Felipe Gonzalez insisted on running yet again in 1996 I abstained in protest (much to my chagrin as it would have been the first national election I would have been eligible to vote in).

I recently read something about the Tories slipping to 3rd place in many urban constituencies, which means labour is more likely to lose seats to the LibDems more than to the Tories... the best outcome is a hung parliament with a the LibDems as arbiters, which I think is quite likely if they manage to keep their eyes on the ball through the current leadership crisis.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 11:26:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it's a nice idea, being a Lib Dem voter myself I certainly like it.

However, the media is already building up Cameron as the next PM. I doubt very much that the Lib Dems will make many gains next time around.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 02:51:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hate all these personality politics... How about some good, old-fashioned, issues?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 03:03:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I do vote on issues, (after all, you can hardly vote for the Lib Dem candidate in my constituency on personality grounds).

However, one has to recognise how changing times (influence of the media, plus the Blairite "govern against your own party" approach) have turned the election into a pseudo-presidential presentation in the minds of many voters.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 03:29:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If it had been a presidential contest, Labour would have lost last may. It was reported Labour candidates insisted on not having Blair appear on their campaign literature... which is why I don't understand their supine attitude to him, especially at the party conference. For the first time since 1997, Blair owes more to his MPs than they owe him.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 03:34:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, perhaps. Unfortunately, the Labour grip on power is arranged around the loyal poor in the North, Wales and Scotland voting Labour and the richer swing voters in the South-East (who were natural Tories in the Thatcher era) voting for Blair.

Thus the deal with the devil was formed.

This of course is the ultimate curse of First Past the Post. A relatively small group of swing voters exercises all the power, and votes in the wrong constituency (like mine) are worth nothing.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 03:37:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The best that can happen to the UK in the next election cycle is a hung parliament where the Lib Dems will be able to sell their support in exchange for a commitment to introduce proportional representation (single transferable vote works best in the Westminster system).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 04:21:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm.
But neither the Tories or Labour would probably go along with the PR thing. It would threaten them both in the future. Although a Tory-Labour coalition may be unlikely, the scenario could even see a second election within months with both the Tories and Labour blaming the Lib-Dems blackmail for another vote.
by observer393 on Fri Jan 13th, 2006 at 11:37:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the second party would go along since they are likely to have done worse in the election than they would have by a proportional system.

But you're right, it might backfire.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 16th, 2006 at 06:04:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Despite observer's scepticism, I agree. This is worth a hope and a shot, as it were.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Jan 14th, 2006 at 03:35:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, at last, this diary is out of the recommended list. It was embarrassing...

Now, I'm thinking about a distributed reading list or something like that to share interesting stuff within a group.
by Francois in Paris on Mon Jan 16th, 2006 at 06:01:15 PM EST


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