Wow. Anti-talent. The one useful concept Martin Amis ever came up with.
Has anyone been more anti-blessed with it than UK PM Gordon Brown? Faced with a popular revolt over secret expenses claims, the separation of a political elite from the general public, mass discontent with an EU constitution, sorry, treaty, being ratified without a referendum, Brown responds to the demands for open government and political change, by announcing an inquiry into the Iraq War … to be held in secret.
Not just some in-camera sessions where matters of ongoing national security are being discussed. Totally behind closed doors, from start to finish.
The public response has been predictable to everyone, except Brown and his increasingly paranoid inner circle, and it is already squaring up to be yet another defeat for Brown, with the Conservatives proposing a debate next week, arguing that “the proceedings whenever possible should be held in secret”. With the Lib-Dems onside and sufficient Labour backbenchers, Brown would go down for the second time in six weeks.
The last motion Brown lost was his miserly attempt to exclude forming serving Ghurkas from full pension rights, in the face of a mass public campaign, motivated by shame that a force which suffered something like a 120% casualty rate in the service of Britain should get the raw end of the Wimpy burger.
That was a cause — sentimental, shaming, cross-political — that a natural politician like Hawke, or Blair, or Cameron would have got right behind, and exactly the sort of thing that, a, well, a Scot would line himself up against. For many people who had their suspicions about Brown as an individual, and also a base prejudice against Scots, it was a license to dismiss him utterly.
But a loss on something like an Iraq War Inquiry — something both Blair and Brown have stonewalled for years — must surely be the end. The last all in-camera war inquiry was Thatcher’s Franks inquiry into the Falklands War — which the Iron Lady used to cover up the criminal sinking of the Belgrano. The sinking of Gordon Brown will make that Belgrano thing look like a fart in a bath.
Who the hell would have thought this was a good idea? Brown could have stonewalled an inquiry to the very end — hoping that the Conservatives (who voted for the war too) would renege on a promise to hold one after they got to power. Nor would a quickie secret inquiry forestall a more open inquiry after the election, if David Cameron had a mind to run one. Indeed, revealing all the dastardly secrets of Brown’s secret inquiry would probably hammer yet another stake through Labour’s heart.
So for the second day in a row, one reaches for the whacky tobakky explanation. Has Brown been talked into this by people who want him to go? Has his own inner circle devised a way to put him in a position where he has no choice but to resign? Has Brown arranged this himself — a sort of political equivalent of suicide-by-cop?
I’m happy to accept that these are crazy explanations — anti-reasons if you will — for the idea, but only if someone can find me a better one from the topside, which ain’t on offer at the moment. For Labour, the sheer horrorism — OK two useful Martin Amis concepts — continues.