The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, March 01, 2004

Clare Short and the perils of breaking news

We hate breaking news round here.

At least in so far as spending time researching stories that are inherently likely to contain serious inaccuracies, or even to be complete bollocks. Which you only find out when it's too late.

A mooch around the Poor Man's Nexis illustrates the sort of souk one is dealing with.

Even Short herself has changed her story (picked up here on February 26). According to the Guardian (March 1), Short is now saying that the transcripts she saw of bugged phone calls of Kofi Annan's may not have related to Iraq [1]; and that the transcripts might have been provided by US agencies, rather than British.

One of the papers over the weekend contrasted the assets as a defendant of Katharine Gun and former leaker David Shayler: Gun was a dream, Shayler something of a nightmare.

As a witness, Short is clearly a nightmare. The Number 10 gang are no doubt laughing their socks off with Short jokes: she has done for the anti-war party what Ian Duncan-Smith did for the Tories, etc, etc.

Her value is in stirring things up. Stasis works for Blair; the sources of value (within and immediately surrounding UKIC) are, it goes without saying, no natural blabbermouths. Short's elephant dance, graceless though it is, might set in train - how, God only knows - events that lead to real evidence being forthcoming.

It's a long-shot.

More joy is likely, perhaps, from the efforts to get disclosure of Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith's full legal opinion on the legality of the war.

Talk in the British Sundays (as in this Observer piece) was that Goldsmith's first opinion was inconclusive; and that pressure was applied for him to harden it up, not least because the British military were nervous of facing war crimes charges.

Pressure from pending cases against anti-war protestors - planning to mount the same necessity argument that Gun would have used had her trial proceeded - will add to the political pressure.

I have seen - but can't lay my hands on the URL - a suggestion that Goldsmith, in issuing his hardened up opinion, relied on an assurance that Iraq possessed WMD deployable within 45 minutes. Treat strictly as a hypothesis/druther until further notice!

  1. Reading the Guardian's transcript of Short's interview on Today where she originally made the allegations, she did not say as much. She may have said so later - I have no intention of checking.

    It also seems as if the transcript may have been cleaned up: according to the Evening Standard transcript I quoted on Thursday, quotes Short as saying

    The UK in this time was also getting spy (these were the words she used) on Kofi Annan's office...
    whereas the Guardian says she said
    ...the UK in this time was also spying on Kofi Annan's office...

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