Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Language Elasticity

Blogger ate my post. Drat. I really should write them on a WP. Shorter version.

I recommend listening to PM (starting 36 minutes in, online till 5pm tomorrow)

At PMQs today, this happened.
Richard Bacon (Con): Will the present inquiry by the cabinet secretary examine whether or not the Home Office acted improperly in relation to an extradition request for Mr Mills.

Tony Blair: We will of course examine any allegations that are made and reply to them fully.
The media assumed that this meant that the cabinet secretary would investigate the allegation. Indeed the Times reported that Blair had agreed to allow Sir Gus to investigate this matter. I'd quoted it in my previous post. Now, that article has been buried in their archive and I can't find it anymore. Well, I did manage to get a screenshot of the article, originally entitled "Jowell Inquiry to Expand to Take in New Claim", but clicking on the link opens this rewritten version rather than the original article.

That's because Downing Street has "clarified" that Blair actually said that he would not allow such an examinationto take place. Apparently, Blair actually meant to say that "we will of course examine any allegation that are made and reply to them fully, except for the one you've explicitely raised in the question. That is because the Home Office, the very organisation which has been accused of improper behaviour, has already investigated that allegation in a satisfactory manner and made a statement on it".

Clearly, what he meant to say is a highly dubious position. More importantly, that is not what he said.

It seems to me that there's a good case that Blair misled parliament in his answer. You can only take the ambiguous statement so far before the elastic snaps it back in your face. In response to a direct question, he gave what appeared to any reasonable person to be a straight answer. That answer was not true.

Book him, Danno.

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