Friday, August 11, 2006

What will they do if they return?

Nearly 170 MPs, at least half of them Labour, George Jones, the Political Editor of the Daily Telegraph, tells us, have signed a letter to Jack Straw, Leader of the House, strongly suggesting that the reported break-up of a large terrorist plot by the police and security services with the full co-operation of their colleagues in other countries indicates that Parliament should be recalled.

Or as a particularly fatuous letter in the same newspaper puts it:
“Sir – The Middle East is on fire, and the effects were being uncomfortably felt here yesterday as our airports shut down.

At the same time, our Prime Minister is on holiday in Barbados, and our almost non-existent Foreign Secretary is “shed-dragging” in France.

Parliament must be recalled.”
The author of this letter lives in Somerset, which is not the back of beyond. It is, therefore, a little surprising that she (oh yes it is a she) thinks that those airports were somehow shut down by the fire in the Middle East. Surely they get news there of Al-Qaeda cells, jihadists and Londonistan, all of which was in existence long before 9/11, never mind the Iraqi war.

Of course, the Middle East was on fire before but, strangely, none of the men arrested yesterday hail from there and neither do their families.

Setting all that aside, there is the question of what will Parliament do if it is recalled. Iain Dale suggests that they should spend one day debating the Middle East and another the terror plot in the UK.

Then what? If memory serves right, Parliament was recalled three times in 2002 in the run-up to the Iraqi war. Apart from a great deal of inconvenience to the staff (whose salary is between a quarter and a third of that of MPs’ incomes and who get no travelling expenses) what did that achieve? They are still complaining about not being consulted properly or not being told everything.

At least, that was a question of British troops going into war. What precisely can Parliament do now? Is Diane Abbott, one of the signatories, going to suggest that we send British troops in to sort matters out? I think not and, in any case, we do not have the men or the ships or the money.

What will Ian Gibson or Glenda Jackson or Shahid Malik say when informed by the Prime Minister that it is all in the hands of the UN?

What of the terror plot? What can MPs do about that? If it turns out that the whole plot is non-existent then there will have to be discussions about our and others’ intelligence services. If, as seems more likely, it turns out to be entirely correct then the presence of MPs is entirely superfluous. We do not need more legislation. In fact, the alleged plot seems to have been uncovered without there being any ID cards, an entirely unnecessary, stupid and wrong-headed proposal for a law.

As some of us have always said, it is intelligence work that will destroy the various organizations, not endless, ill-conceived legislation. Where do politicians come into intelligence work?

If not legislation then what? A debate just to hear their own voices? I very much fear that is so. This is not another argument about the growing unimportance of Parliament but about the overwhelming self-importance of its members. Neither the war in Lebanon, over which we have no control and in which we have no involvement, nor the alleged terrorist plot, uncovered by the various security services, have anything to do with MPs but they cannot bring themselves to believe that. Sadly, there seem to be many other people in this country who are in the same mental fog.

One can only surmise that those 170 or so politicians are bored and the joys of spending time with their families evaporated very fast. Alternatively, their families would like to get rid of them. So they want to come rushing back despite the fact that all this flying to and fro is very bad for the environment, global warming and climate change, and stomp around Westminster, the one place in the world where they can pretend that they are of use and importance.

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