Waiting for Chilcot

On March 18th 2003 on the eve of war, I heard the whole of the Iraq debate in the House of Commons. Later, as matters unfolded, I decide to keep a detailed chronological summary of events and analysis, wholly dependent on published material and comment. In 2007 I finished a play called My Country Right or Wrong. Hitherto I had supported the Government. Tony Blair had been magnificent in debate. Now, with millions of others, I had changed my mind. Time to publish?

The news of the Chilcot enquiry made me pause. It would be foolish to pre-empt the findings, I thought. Perhaps some of those press reports were off-beam. However I hoped that the enquiry would proceed quickly. Sadly, for whatever reasons, that was not the case.

Earlier this year I decided to publish it not long after the Report emerges. Happily it does not cover the same territory as Stuff Happens, the superb play of David Hare, now about to be read again at the National Theatre. Not, you understand, that my efforts would exactly rival his…

So, soon it will be up on Amazon and hopefully have a production.

Will keep you posted…

Nigel Pascoe QC

Beyond Despair

I need to declare again that I am not a member of any party, although In my time I have voted for all three. But of course I share the universal recognition that our system of Parliamentary democracy cannot survive without an effective opposition.

What is happening at present is absolutely tragic.

It is plain to me that Jeremy Corbyn is a thoroughly decent and principled man, who has had the courage to retain his long-standing political principles. Equally clearly, the possibility of the election of a hard left Labour Government is minuscule. So long as he gives substance to such an agenda, he cannot represent the present elected Labour party. So sadly, I agree that he has to go.

But that must place within the rules. I agree with the Momentum argument that a leader has to put his or her head above the parapet and stand against him. I also accept that there is a whole mass constituency of young people, not necessarily all on the hard left, who believe in many of his principles and in him.

See what if a new election confirms him in post?

The answer is that there must be a new Labour Plus movement, with all the pain and dislocation that will cause to the Labour family. That would provide a proper rearrangement of the centre-left to form a credible opposition to the government. Incidentally I see the real possibility of the dramatic re-growth of the Lib Dems in the next two years.

In the meantime I have one real worry about Jeremy Corbyn himself. Concern that he has been put under intolerable pressure, be it direct or indirect, which will be damaging to him. A man can only stand so much. I have no evidence of course of where the pressure may be coming from, but the fear exists. You cannot have major public figures day after day condemning him without there being some impact. It is a very difficult situation, but humanity trumps even idealism.

So let a challenger come forward and then we can begin a return to full parliamentary government.

Nigel Pascoe QC

 

Mistake, Muddle and Malice aforethought

Call me naive, but I do not share the easy lie about our political class: that they are essentially self serving and malign, dedicated only to their own grubby strivings up the greasy pole. Nearly all that I have met, of all parties, have been fundamentally decent, anxious in that over-used phrase to make a difference for their constituents. Nor do I believe that ambition, even of the naked variety, is necessarily incompatible with decency and a desire to serve and help others.

Where does that optimistic belief stand after the leadership manoeuvres of both major parties?
In truth, I may need to rely on advocacy to make the best of it. But the shockwaves of Brexit have produced some very curious behaviour.

Let me start with the Prime Minister, who left the stage with grace and dignity. Inside Downing Street I would have shared the tears that flowed. No party member, I still regard him as a fundamentally decent man. We share a common tragedy and of course, that makes me cut him some slack. But I much regret his peremptory demand to Jeremy Corbyn to go. Rarely can a man have felt more lonely in the House and he did not need that gratuitous slight.

Nor do I think that if Boris Johnson had been in situ, he would have said it. Likel many, I am very ambivalent about Boris. He does appear disorganised and I can accept that there would have been the real chance of serious misjudgment, had he become PM. He would have needed the most conscientious of supporters to provide the detail and even so, could have blown it. But he has other qualities almost unique amongst his contemporaries. Charm, real good humour and I think often an unforced decency which might have unified more than divided. His speech after winning was, I think, an effort to reconcile, though it has not survived angry satirical attack.

Leading of course to his perceived assassin. I do not know the Lord Chancellor, or his wife for that matter. I fear he will pay a heavy price for what really was a very late decision. It takes a brave advocate to argue against treachery and betrayal, but again that sits oddly with the man who debated so skilfully and as always with courtesy. I do not think the Conservative party will give Michael Gove the instant redemption which would make him Prime Minister. I only hope that high intelligence is put behind the huge trading changes we need to survive. Just for the record, I see no reason at all to criticise his wife. None.

So in the play I would love to write of these frenetic days, so far the verdict would be Mistake, Muddle but no Malice Aforethought. But of course the full story has not yet been told…

Of the other challengers, save one, I will be brief. I can see Theresa May as a Prime Minister who would command respect across the House. Playing a cautious hand, she certainly has the experience to lead. I know little of Dr Fox or indeed Stephen Crabb, although I can see the latter in the frame in a few years.

But I was extremely impressed during the first television debate with Andrea Leadsom. My side of the case was not served nearly as well as the Brexit one. Boris was statesmanlike, despite some very regrettable aggression shown to him. Gisella Stuart was calm and very impressive. Andrea
Leadsom was simply superb. Why do not more politicians realise that absolute clarity coupled with a smile and obvious decency count for so much with the mass of the public?

In a word, I think that Andrea Leadsom has what it takes. But hey, not down to me.

Next blog, Her Majesties Opposition. More advocacy will be needed.

We live in interesting times. Calm down, says Her Majesty. Respectfully, I could not agree more.

Nigel Pascoe QC