Edinburgh is alive with the festival spirit and with over ten different festivals taking place, there’s something for everyone from interpretive dance to big name comedians. As part of the festival of politics at the Scottish Parliament, Clare Short did a question and answer session with Alasdair Morgan MSP. Answering questions about the war in Iraq, the reasons for her various resignations and the MP’s expenses scandal, the former cabinet minister outlined her disappointment at the current state of government and her hopes for the future.
In the bright wooden committee room, surrounded by cameras and microphones, Clare Short started by talking about her career as a whole, saying that she would not be seeking re-election after 26 years as an MP: “26 years is enough, isn’t it?”.
She recalled her work as a civil servant and how working for a Tory minister convinced her that she too could be an MP and do a better job. Reiterating several times that being an MP is not an unreachable goal, the veteran politician said that she believed many mothers would make great politicians with their experience of the education system and new found horizons once their children are established at school.
Part of the interview with Alasdair Morgan was directed at Clare Short’s legacy. She lamented that the democratic and respectful parliamentary culture is “fading in British politics”. She pinpointed the start of the demise with Thatcher and also blames the “political correspondents who hover round Westminster, all know each other and hunt as a pack… Anyone who writes anything original is labelled ‘gaff prone’.”
The 24 hour media and political leadership’s deference to Rupert Murdoch were both named by Ms Short as reasons for the decline in quality of discussion and debate in cabinet and parliament.
Speaking about Tony Blair, Clare Short said that: “the second term Blair was a different animal”. She confirmed what many had suspected, that the former PM was a charming master of PR without any deeply held views though Ms Short amused the audience by adding that “he hasn’t read many books” and that he “lied systematically” on Iraq.
She said of Blair’s possible appointment as EU President “I don’t think he will get that job”.
She said that “charm leads him to mislead” and that on many subjects such as fox hunting, various opposing factions held audience with Tony Blair and left feeling that they had assurances that they would get their way. The same theme has emerged in the handling of the Lockerbie bomber, Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, in which both the American authorities and Colonel Gaddafi felt they had been heard by Tony Blair when, in fact no such assurances stood.
Ms Short and the audience were waiting on the news of Kenny MacAskill’s decision as the talk took place.
The most strongly made point of Clare Short’s appearance was that politics is in a state of crisis and with a smaller majority in Government, we might be able to reform politics and restore quality to the decision making process. She urged the public to vote tactically in the next election.