Wednesday, February 21, 2007

FPC, Chatham House Rules and whether the Parliamentary Party are pulling a fast one on Trident.

Like Alex Wilcock I sat through the debate on Chatham House rules in FPC last night, caused by the naming of members in a recent article in Liberator. As a new kid on the block no one ever made it clear to me that we operated under the rules (which seem to be open to various interpretations anyway) and I only found out when I checked up. Whilst my elders and betters may think it is absolutely obvious that FPC operates in such a way, my personal view is that it is wrong to assume anything you haven't spelt out. As someone who was elected by members to represent them I believe my first responsibility is to them. Having also been subject to the Official Secrets Act I also object to unnecessary secrecy. However, I do see the point of not reporting who said what about what in order to allow members to vent their spleen with impunity.

What was of far more concern to me and others was the use of Cowley Street facilities for Tim Garden and Nick Harvey to send out focus style leaflets to party chairs. When I asked about this I was told it was paid for by the Parliamentary Party. However, their right to access the addresses of party chairs for this purpose has to be questionable. I am pleased that party President Simon Hughes will be investigating. Methinks the supporters of the motion are getting worried about losing. They should be.

1 comment:

Alex Wilcock said...

Hi Linda – I saw your post yesterday afternoon and posted this comment, which got lost somewhere in the arcane workings of Blogger. Thanks for inviting me to resubmit it; you’ll notice I’ve not amended it in the light of any of the gunfire that’s erupted over my own blog piece on the subject ;-)

Spot on, Linda. I know that FPC operates on the Chatham House Rule largely because I asked what the rules were many years ago, when first making reports on FPC, rather than because I’d heard it announced… As far as I’m concerned, as long as we can say what goes on there, saying who says it is immaterial (and would discourage people from speaking their minds – not a good idea).

Having said that, David Grace has been around for quite a while, and as the same Liberator in which he names people points out that the Trident working group on which he sat was very explicitly working to the same Rule… Well, people can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow slightly at his protestations of innocence.

I agree on the dodginess of ‘privately paid’ mailings, particularly as those who’d seen them last night confirmed that the ‘unofficial’ communications weren’t marked as ‘unofficial’. On the other hand, the source who supplied lots of inaccurate spin to Liberator didn’t do the anti-Trident campaign any favours either. Perhaps some people on both sides are playing a bit dirty and making gaffes along the way.