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Big votes

Yesterday was a day for big votes. Quite apart from what was going on in the Commons, their Lordships banged on for nearly four hours about whether we should have a referendum on the Trisbon. This was a contentious issue and the opposition scented governmental blood; consequently, both sides were dragging in all the peers they could to troop dutifully through the lobbies. Margaret Thatcher was in, for a start, wearing her vivid blue suit that exactly matched the tie I was wearing—if the rules didn’t specifically preclude the taking of photographs in the chamber at any time, I’d have got someone to take a snap of the two of us to prove it.

The results of the vote then appeared on the screens throughout the building, known as Annunciators: Contents 218, Not Contents 218. A tie! After all that! It doesn’t go to penalties or anything, or even a tie-break question—in the event of a tie, the government get the casting vote as a formality—but it would still look pretty bad for them. Then, suddenly, the Annunciator subtly changed: Contents 218, Not Contents 280. It was no to a referendum after all. The government had won comfortably, and the only people it was looking pretty bad for were the people operating the Annunciator. We probably should look into a announcement system that doesn’t rely on someone shouting the result to someone else in the next room.

Meanwhile, amid yesterday’s kerfuffle in the Commons, when the government barely scraped an endorsement for Gordon’s Blairer-than-Blair 42-day stunt thanks only to the backing of the homophobic and generally batshit insane DUP, this passed mostly unnoticed, which is a pity:
A little noticed clause of the bill gives the Home Secretary a new power to ban the public from a coroner’s inquest in the interests of national security.

Coroners rule on most deaths that come before them—but must call upon a jury if a death has occurred in controversial circumstances, particularly where it involves the police or other agents of the state. An example would be the ... inquest relating to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.

If the proposal becomes law, inquests in some controversial circumstances involving what the government says are important issues of national security would be held behind closed doors on public interest grounds.[BBC]
Obviously I’ve no reason at all to think that this will be one of those cases where the weary old phrase “the national interest” is whored around once again as a cover for the fact that someone senior has fouled everything up. After all, why would the government ever want to intervene in an inquest such as those, for example, where the government have been repeatedly blamed for ill-equipping their soldiers? What on earth would the government stand to gain from hushing up their embarrassing failures? It’s just this kind of thing that helps to restore everyone’s faith in politics, a process soon to be completed once and for all when MPs report on their investigation into MPs’ expenses.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 12th, 2008 01:34 pm (UTC)
Crikey! I missed that bit. So really, the whole 42-day thing has been an enormous wodge of sleight-of-hand! It all makes sense now.
Jun. 12th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
Obviously I’m not suggesting that that’s the real reason for the bill, whose main purpose has been discussed at laborious length elsewhere. Rather, the secret inquest section is but one small element in the dazzling and fragrant bouquet of fuck-you that the government are presenting to us.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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