The leak shall rule

I was quietly amused last week to read about the fuss the Government was making over leaks from the Ministry of Defence about the appalling way we treat our long suffering soldiers, sailors and airmen. The cries of foul from the political side seemed

I was quietly amused last week to read about the fuss the Government was making over "leaks" from the Ministry of Defence about the appalling way we treat our long suffering soldiers, sailors and airmen. The cries of "foul" from the political side seemed to me a little hypocritical.

For the past 10 years, we have had Government by Leak, Government by Pre-emptive Press Release, Government by Everything Except Proper Parliamentary Debate. Who was it fed the leaks about Peter Mandelson when he fell into disfavour? Who is feeding rumours about Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to the media? Who attempted to discredit any scientist who disagreed with the Government line on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Many years ago, a distinguished Socialist called Harold Laski suggested that the two greatest things Britain had given to the world were a politically neutral civil service and the committee system in local government. Both have been destroyed or neutralised in the past 10 years. Indeed, one of the first pieces of legislation by the incoming Government in 1997 was an Order in Council giving "special advisors" (political activists in plain language) powers to control the activities of the hitherto neutral civil service.

So, cry foul as often and as loudly as you like. People in the MoD are merely following your example. As I said last month: sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.


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A happy ending

Just over three years ago, our closure of a number of libraries had us (metaphorically at least) in line for a lynching. Amongst the most vociferous of our critics were the people of Somersham.

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Somersham Community Library - run by local people with very little help from the county council - is celebrating its third anniversary, and it is seen as a success story.

As more councils are facing the prospect of having to close libraries to live within their means, many of them are pointed towards Cambridgeshire, in general, and Somersham in particular, as places from which they might learn something.

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