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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 15:47 GMT
Newslog
Nick Robinson is your guide, philosopher and friend through the news. Here in Newslog, he keeps an ongoing record of what's happening. Add your comments too.

Thursday 14 March

Qui est plus cynical?
posted by Nick | 1114 GMT | Add comment
Labour's Chairman Charles Clarke ticked me off in an interview about his promise of a new open policy-making process in which party members would help shape government policy.

All I'd done was to suggest to him that they would take some persuading, given the widespread belief that the party ignores its members.

That, he said, is only because you tell people that. (I don't think he was crediting me with unique powers. I think that he meant all TV interviewers.)

Funny then that I open my papers this morning to read that in a briefing I'd missed, none other than Mr Clarke has told reporters (you've guessed it) that members would take some persuading given the widespread belief that the party ignored them.

It's enough to make you, well, cynical!

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Monday 11 March

Nuff respect
posted by Nick | 1330 GMT | Add comment
Have you noticed ? Ministers now respect us. No, really, they do. How do I know? They're telling us.

David Blunkett on Radio 4's Today programme this morning talked of being open with the electorate about the dilemmas the government faces.

Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn have said much the same in recent days. This is the new ministerial solution to cynicism about politics.

I'm tempted to write something cynical about this but that would hardly be in the spirit of this brave new world. So, instead I'll just pose a few questions about dilemmas ministers might like to shed some light on to demonstrate this new respect.

  • Who's making the economic assessment about whether to join the Euro and will the Cabinet get a vote on it?
  • How are you deciding whose taxes should go up and by how much?
  • Do you have any regrets about the handling of Lakshmir Mittal?

Can't wait for the replies.

---------------------------

Gulf War Two - coming soon?
posted by Nick | 1011 GMT | Add comment
Whether you're painting your protest placards or chilling the champagne, whether you're a hawk or a dove on Iraq, the story seems clear. Thousands of British troops are about to take the fight to Saddam and Cabinet ministers may resign in protest. Well, not quite. Beware the rhetorical arms race.

London & Washington have agreed to increase the heat on Saddam - hence all those "leaks" about troop numbers and nuclear targetting plus the sabre rattling in speeches and interviews.

No doubt we'll get more of this at today's Tony & Dick show (Dick Cheney - the man they call "the real President" - is visiting Downing Street).

They have not agreed anything else however. and even if they wanted to launch a military attack they are many weeks away from that being a practical possibility and much persuading away from it being a political possibility. Some on both sides hope that the threats alone will be enough to convince Saddam to back down. It's if that group is proved wrong that talk of troops will be more than just talk.

Labour's Bush-sceptics have gone in for their own sabre rattling with talk of threatened resignations. I doubt they'll ever happen but even if I'm wrong they're a long long way away.

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Were we warned?
posted by Nick | 1051 GMT | Add comment
Downing Street admitted this morning that there is no evidence of any connection at all between Iraq and 11 September or al-Qaeda. So, why talk of a war?

Downing Street says Saddam is in breach of UN resolutions, kicked out UN weapons inspectors and has a proven readiness to use weapons of mass destruction.

But wasn't that true two years ago, a year ago and even after 11 September when the talk was only of military action against harbourers and sponsors of terrorism? Number Ten point to the prime minister's statement after 11 September to prove that Iraq's "always been on the radar".

Ever the sceptic, I've checked and in the interests of fairness should say they're right (though I bet most people didn't notice!).

Speaking in the Commons, Tony Blair warned that terrorists "would, if they could, go further and use chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction. We know, also, that there are groups of people, occasionally states, who will trade the technology and capability of such weapons. It is time that this trade was exposed, disrupted, and stamped out. We have been warned by the events of 11 September, and we should act on the warning."

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