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The right thing to do

June 24, 2009

column-picture1Michael must resign.

That is the conclusion I have come to.

It may be that there is a U-turn in the offing.

But if transpires that there is no change of heart by Gordon Brown, and no decision that the Iraq War Inquiry will be a public inquiry after all, then our MP must hand in his resignation as a Government Minister.

He must resign for a second time over the issue of Iraq.

Last week in my column, I shared with you my uncertainty as to why our Labour MP has decided to become a Government Minister during the death throes of the New Labour project.

This week, following my open letter (in which I encouraged local people to send in their own expressions of dissent) I believe Michael Foster has an opportunity to show us that he is, after all, the kind of MP that people thought they elected in 1997.

There are some who are skeptical about the first resignation – as parliamentary private secretary to the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith. Michael is clear that he resigned; some constituents, including some who post comments on these Observer columns, believe otherwise.

There is no longer any need for ambiguity.

It is alleged that Gordon Brown opted for secrecy because he had been requested to do so by the office of the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

My own party leader, Nick Clegg, responded to this with utter disbelief:

“If the inquiry is to have any legitimacy, the prime architect of the decision to go to war in Iraq alongside George Bush should give his evidence in public under oath.

“I think anything less will make people feel this is just a grand cover-up for, after all, what was the biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made since Suez”, he said.

So, if there is no about-turn by Gordon, I urge Michael Foster both to act, and to persuade other Ministers to act with him.

I urge him to put aside thoughts of the final salary pension.

I urge him to speak out against this flagrant denial of the public will towards greater political transparency and accountability.

Let’s not pretend this is not an important issue.

It is fundamental to the crisis of confidence that the British people are having in their politicians.

My Conservative counterpart appears to agree with me on this. To her credit, she has written this week about the need for the Inquiry to be held in public.

However her comments are the weaker because of the Conservatives’ own position as backers of the Iraq War.

On many of the key issues for Hastings & Rye, it seems clear that she does not have the strong, radical voice that this constituency needs.

Unless he is saved by another Gordon Brown volte-face, Michael Foster’s mettle will truly be tested on this issue.

It won’t just be local Liberal Democrats who will be listening for a strong, radical statement from our representative at Westminster.

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