14 July 2009

Get Your Calculators Out

£14,100: The cost to the taxpayer of legal advice sought by SNP and Plaid MPs on the possibility of an impeachment process - a procedure not used since 1848 - against Tony Blair, on the grounds that his case for dragging the UK into the Iraq War was predicated on weapons of mass destruction which Saddam Hussein did not have. In so doing, Blair misled Parliament, the people and the international community, and supported action which has killed more than four and a half thousand Coalition troops (to say nothing of the resources diverted from Afghanistan), killed up to ten thousand Iraqi soldiers up to the fall of Saddam, and has been responsible for perhaps one hundred thousand civilian deaths. Imagine, if you can, that the entire population of South Ayrshire were wiped out over the course of six years: that's roughly what has happened in Iraq, yet Blair, whose case for the actions that have caused those deaths was based on a fabrication, has never been directly called to account for his part in it, and for the UK involvement which he sought.

Yet Lord Foulkes has reported Alex Salmond - only one of nine MPs to pick up the costs on their expense accounts - to the Standards Commissioner because, and I quote, "I think it's quite wrong for public money to be used for a party political campaign."

£120,000: The estimated cost to the taxpayer incurred by Lord Foulkes asking such questions as:

To ask the Scottish Executive what official engagements the First Minister has planned for July and August 2009 and whether an estimate has been made of catering costs.

To ask the Scottish Executive when it booked the venue for the National Conversation event that was held in Livingston on 16 June 2009.

To ask the Scottish Executive what use has been made of hire cars for ministers’ travel since May 2007; what companies have been used, and what the total cost has been.

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has subscriptions for (a) Sky and (b) Setanta TV output and, if so, how many and at what locations these services are provided.

To ask the Scottish Executive whether the First Minister has travelled by train to or from any official engagements since August 2008.

And so on.

So let's recap: nine MPs spend £14,100 on attempting to hold Tony Blair to account for a lie which has cost the lives of more than a hundred thousand people, and Lord Foulkes objects to one of those nine putting the bill on his expense account.

But Lord Foulkes himself has cost the taxpayer £120,000 (that's more than a pound for every death caused by the Iraq War and the occupation) to ask whether the Scottish Government subscribed to Setanta (they didn't, by the way).

Some Parliamentarian!


Oldrightie said...

Calculator failed to total number of hoons in The Labour Party.

Caron said...

Being against the war myself, I see your point entirely.

However, I'm still not convinced that we should pick up the tab for Alex Salmond's stupidity.

There was no chance in hell of impeachment ever happening. The inbuilt Labour majority in the House of Commons would see to that.

The way forward on stopping what Tony Blair did in the future lies mainly in electoral reform rather than fightiing completely lost causes.

Will said...

Caron, I take your point that the strength of Parliamentary argument would lose out to the argument of Parliamentary strength, but in the context of what other things Parliamentary expenses have paid for, I'd still contend that the £14,000 - shared between nine accounts, but of which Foulkes concentrates on only one (yet he doesn't want to be partisan, funny, that...), seems no less futile than any other opposition to the war, given Tory support and the strong probability that Blair's mind had been made up ages beforehand. Including demonstrations.

And in any climate where there's a Parliamentary majority, then pretty much any Opposition action at all becomes futile, so singling this out as being particularly stupid, when Foulkes has cost far more asking about catering expenses and when MPs of all parties spend far more between them on a communications allowance to tell us what a good job they're doing, seems unfair.

Further, given that it was Adam Price who spearheaded the move, why so quick to call this "Alex Salmond's stupidity"?

I agree that PR should have been in place, but with Tory support, the odds are that this wouldn't have been enough to stop the war. With the Official Opposition supporting Blair on Iraq, it was down to our respective parties to act as, you know, an Opposition, and challenge the Government.

Basically, PR, which we both support, might have enabled impeachment but it wouldn't have prevented the war, which we both opposed. And I disagree with your own post, as I think this is an issue of relative costs: George Foulkes has spent more than eight times as much taxpayer money on egg-throwing as the nine SNP/Plaid MPs spent on a major issue of the day.

Anne said...

Brilliant posting Will, one of your best!