Friday, July 23, 2010

How to mouth off in parliament about the legality of war and get away with it

Nick Clegg’s “illegal invasion of Iraq” moment has raised questions about whether minsters speaking in the Commons are there as ministers or as random people with opinions. Lucy Mangan has some fun, as does the Daily Mash.

Hadleigh Roberts has an intriguing theory – that George Osborne fed him the line and was mouthing along as he delivered it – but I’m not convinced. I’ve watched the clip four times and I’m not sure Osborne’s lips are doing anything more than slightly, randomly wobbling.

I think the explanation is much simpler: Clegg was using the dog whistle. He knows he’s achieving less in the coalition than many of his party would like, so (to switch canine metaphors) he threw them a bone. His statement is of no consequence for government policy, but plenty of Lib Dems will have been heartened to hear it.

Just a thought, though: a senior member of the government has made a confident and unambiguous declaration on the legal status of a war without even bothering to consult his Attorney General. I’m sure that the usual suspects are rushing to the comment pages of the Guardian and the Independent to denounce his lack of respect for proper procedure…

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