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Haditha Ethics - From Iraq to Iran?

The Spokesman, 91


Giles Edwards, British Politics Unravelled, Politico’s Publishing, 176 pages, ISBN 1-84275-152-2 £8.99


If you are looking for a blistering exposure of British political power in New Labour’s 21st century un-cool Britannia then this is not the book for you. If, however, you are looking for a cautious outline of the workings of the constitutional bodies and attendant political formations of that state, together with some of the national and international issues with which it has been pre-occupied, then it could be a good starting point.


The first section explains the historical hotchpotch that goes under the name of the British constitution with its constituent elements covered, not forgetting quaint features such as Erskine May and the Royal prerogative. There are many enticing sub-headings to guide you through the thicket of information, such as ‘What does the Church of England Do?’ and ‘Where does the Mayor of London fit in?’ The arcane procedures of the Houses of Parliament are explained succinctly and the changes at Number 10 under the ‘presidential’ and ‘sofa government’ of the Blair dispensation are listed and the consequential veneer of cabinet government touched upon. There is not very much about the Downing Street press office, Alastair Campbell’s brush with the BBC, ‘dodgy’ and ‘sexed-up’ dossiers, in fact surprisingly little on the BBC in general. But perhaps this is to be expected, as the author is a working BBC journalist and the book has a Foreword by Nick Robinson: dangerous territory – and who wants to end up like Greg Dyke? In fact all of the issues in the book get the ‘balanced’ BBC treatment with knobs on.


The constitutional changes of New Labour, from the 1998 Human Rights Act  right through to the impending Supreme Court, are listed and the devolved Regional Assemblies and their varying and differing powers explained, together with electoral mechanism. The long-forgotten Blair espousal of ‘open government’ is hardly mentioned and the only reference to the Freedom of

Information Act is in a listing of constitutional innovations. Perhaps that is as well, given its thirty-five individual categories of exemption. The final section of the book is about the state’s role in economic management, setting out the argument about private industry’s involvement in government activities in terms of the desire for it to be ‘done more efficiently’. The vast disparities in wealth and income contaminating our political practice are not touched upon, even when they undoubtedly feed the feelings of public political powerlessness and cynicism, which have intensified under New Labour with its sleazy antics and ‘news management’ proclivities.


In conclusion, the book will hardly act as a clarion call for increased political involvement for all those searching for political action to address big issues such as social inequality and the dangers of war, those whose involvement has been partly neutered by the New Labour take-over. But if you want to know about the responsibilities of the Privy Council and what an EDM is, this guide will be of help.


John Daniels
















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