Ten years on from the Iraq invasion it’s interesting to reflect how little things change in politics. As the rhetoric around Syria begins to intensify in its aggression towards a ‘monstrous dictator’, the parallels with Iraq and Saddam are plain to see. I spoke out against the Iraq war at the time and I’m similarly worried over the Syria situation at the moment. I can only hope that the Government has learned the lessons of the past ten years.
In the clear light of hindsight, the decision to invade was an illustration of the problems that arise when politicians are not tempered by the restraining influences of management discipline and accountability. Certainly, an undeniably dangerous man was prevented from causing further harm to his own people, and Mr Blair would have us believe that this in itself justifies almost anything. But I think it’s the case that ‘he doth protest too much’. Ten years later it’s clear that Iraq is still far from a haven of peace and democracy, and the balance of power in the region has shifted alarmingly, as a direct result of our actions. We’ve seen Iran come to the fore in recent years, now that Iraq’s been removed as a counter-balance. And while it’s clear that Saddam’s so-called weapons of mass destruction were of no real consequence, the Iranian nuclear programme seems to go from strength to strength.
It’s a worrying development and, as I say, it’s indicative of the lack of discipline and accountability in the Government of the time. Blair and Co gave no thought to the end game. As became clear, there were no post-victory arrangements in place – nothing had been thought through as methodically as it should have been. But then again, the decision to invade was never really based on pragmatism or reason at all. It was a decision based on ego. We should have seen it coming in Mr Blair’s early references to the “hand of history” on his shoulder. He was a man ever with one eye on his future biographies. The chance to topple a violent dictator was simply too irresistible in that regard – so irresistible, in fact, that it even justified the hoodwinking of Parliament, Dodgy Dossiers et al. Frankly, it’s a disgrace that the simplest of management procedures found in businesses up and down the country weren’t in place. You couldn’t get away with such a laissez-faire attitude in the real world so why was it that basic principles of accountability and discipline were missing in the previous Government? And why is it that those principles are still lacking in the current Government?
Because there’s a lesson here for Mr Cameron. The UK and the Middle-East is feeling the consequences of a rushed decision that came about because the Labour Government lacked the management discipline that should have halted the process when the lack of planning became evident. Time and again myself and others have tried to remind David Cameron that ‘management’ is not a dirty word – it’s an integral part of proper Government. And time and again we’ve seen the co-alition make mistakes that could have been sorted out by proper management. There was a poll published today that showed people’s trust in Parliament is at an all-time low. Frankly, that shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Is it any surprise that people don’t trust politicians after the years of lies that Labour spun? And is it any surprise that people have no faith when the co-alition keeps demonstrating that it lacks the basic competence to see its policies through? When I’m away from Westminster and people ask me what I do I’m often tempted to tell them that I play the piano at a strip club. It is, after all, a more respected profession than being a politician at the moment. And that’s no joke. The Government needs to learn from the mistakes of its predecessors. It’s time to dampen the egos and think a little more about outcomes. Only then will we see public trust begin to return.