Monday, 25 June 2007

Happy days are here again...but not really

Oh, let the joy be unconfined, I thought, as I picked up the Guardian on Saturday and saw this article on the front page. Lord Goldsmith has finally resigned as Attorney General!

When I read the article, and thought about it a bit more, I realised that there wasn't that much to celebrate here. Goldsmith didn't resign because of the dropping of the SFO investigation into BAE systems, or because of his advice on the Iraq war (which had all caveats and doubts stripped out before it was given, in summarised form, to cabinet). He resigned because he was in all likelihood going to be sacked by Gordon Brown within days. The announcement of Goldsmith's resignation was made at 9:30pm on Friday night, in the news graveyard shift. I wonder why? Sure enough, the only paper to pick up the news was the grauniad.

Of course, everyone had to pretend that Goldsmith has done an excellent job. Tony Blair said that Goldsmith discharged his role "at all times with integrity and professionalism ... You have shown an unwavering commitment to the importance of the rule of law and human rights. " An unwavering commitment to the importance of the rule of law? This is the Attorney General who famously said that, in dropping the BAE systems investigation, "It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest". Whatever else it may be, this is not an "unwavering commitment to the rule of law".

Gordon Brown said "His contribution to the country and this government has been immense, not least through transforming the Crown Prosecution Service. It is with my regret he has made his personal decision to step down". That personal decision was of course entirely unrelated to his imminent sacking by Brown.

Good riddance, I say, but nothing important will change until the Attorney General becomes truly independent of government. If Gordon Brown can do something about this, it would be a start. But the general evasion and disingenuousness surrounding the performance of Lord Goldsmith is not a good omen.

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