Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"In the name of God, go!"

posted by k

On 8th May, 1940, the Conservative MP Leo Amery addressed his Prime Minister using Cromwell's words:

"You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!"

The occasion was a vote of confidence in Neville Chamberlain's wartime government after the disaster of the Norway campaign.

History books aren't always accurate but records show that Chamberlain won the vote with the massive majority of 81. However, members of his party had turned against him and the lowered majority led to his resignation two days later - an honourable response to the debate and vote.

Tony Blair's government insisted today that no vote on the war was necessary. Margaret Beckett said the situation was too "delicate". I would have thought the situation was delicate in 1940, when German invasion threatened Britain.

Ministers said an enquiry might upset or endanger the troops. Young men and women sent abroad to be killed and maimed - and to kill and maim others - might wish to be more than canon fodder. But Blair's government take a view of soldiers that geos back to Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade":

"Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs but to do & die ..."

Presumably in Blair's cosy little world, soldiers sit contentedly round their campfires, singing a happy song from the trenches of World War I:

"We're here because we're here because
We're here because we're here ..."

In Blair's world, soldiers don't wish to know why they are in Iraq. But most of us don't live in Blair's world.

Today there was a vote in the House of Commons. Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Nationalists - and some Labour MPs - called for an enquiry into the Iraq war.

The government won by 25 votes.

That's not as good as 81.

It's not enough.

Given the mistaken loyalty and self-interest moving some Labour MPs who voted to save the government, it's clear that most MPs think the war in Iraq was a grave mistake.

It's time for Tony Blair - and those ministers who support him - to leave office.

Cromwell's words, used by Leo Amery, still resonate:

"You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!"


Blogger Guthrum said...

I do not think he is weakened, because in Blairworld Parliament is an irrelevance, we need a new reform bill and proportional representation. We shall see

8:56 pm  
Blogger areopagitica said...

We need those things indeed - but we need to insist that parliament is still relevant too.

9:06 pm  
Blogger areopagitica said...

The names of Labour MPs voting for an enquiry have now been published.

Many thanks to the democrats:

Harry Cohen (Leyton & Wanstead)

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)

Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent Central)

Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath)

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead & Highgate)

John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington)

Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway)

Alan Simpson (Nottingham South)

Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester South)

Dr Gavin Strang (Edinburgh East)

Robert Wareing (Liverpool West Derby)

Mike Wood (Batley & Spen)

Former Labour minister Clare Short, who was sitting on the opposition benches for the first time as an independent since resigning from the party earlier this month, also backed the inquiry.

Would that more had shown been courageous and concerned enough to join them.

9:14 pm  
Anonymous Gerard Mulholland said...

I'm afraid these figures mean nothing in the sense of a comparison of scale.

In 1940 this was the situation -

UK intelligence had been telling Chamberlain ever since the final surrender in Poland on 1 October 1939 that an invasion of Norway and Denmark was next and both the military and certain Cabinet members (like WS Churchill) had been demanding a "pre-emptive invasion" of both countries (including the Danish Colonies of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes) to "save" them from the Nazis.
Chamberlain refused to contemplate "pre-emptive invasion" of neutral countries.
Instead, on 5 April 1940, in a speech at Caxton Hall, he announced that "Mr Hitler has missed the bus".

The phoney war ended on 9 April when Denmark and Norway were suddenly invaded and Denmark fell in one day.
In the event it took Chamberlain 10 days to get British troops into Norway -and into the wrong place (where the Nazis already were) instead of the north where the Norwegians were still holding out.
When the House of Commons debated the situation, Chamberlain's cack-handed handling of the defence of Norway had already cost the lives of 4,000 British soldiers in two months and more were to die before the surrender of the last Norwegian garrison on 9 June..

Chamberlain had 429 MPs with an overall majority of 247.
The 1935 Election had been a landslide that would have been even worse if "re-armer" Clement Attlee hadn't replaced the pacifist George Lansbury half way through the campaign.
But in the vote in the the House of Commons on 8 May 1940 (after a two day debate) some 40 of Chamberlain's MPs voted with the Opposition, loads more abstained and his majority was reduced to 81.
The next morning he gave the secret orders for the pre-emtive occupation of the no-longer neutral Iceland, Greenland and the Faroes and then went to Buckingham Palace to see King George VI and resigned.
On 10 May the pre-emtive occupations took place at dawn and Churchill became Prime Minister later in the morning.

In the 2001 Election Blair won 412 seats with an overall majority of 166.
On 18 March 2003 Blair defeated the anti-war Amendment by 396 to 217.
138 of his MPs voted against him and 15 Tories also rebelled against their party Whip yet Blair's majority -thanks to most of the Conservative Opposition voting with him- rose to 179.

In the 2005 Election Blair won 355 seats with a majority of 65.

This time his majority is down from 65 to 25 but only 12 of his 355 MPs voted against him with 45 not voting at all but that includes pairs (often quite large) and the sick.

There is, alas, no comparison of scale.

I only wish there was.


5:48 am  

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