In the climax of “A Few Good Men” Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) cross examines Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) demanding the truth in the story that had seen the death of a Marine. Finally Nicholson explodes with the wonderful line “The truth? you can’t handle the truth!” and then with the red mist in his eyes goes on to admit his own involvement in the deceit, ending his career as a Colonel and well decorated Marine. In the case of the film based on the play by Aaron Sorkin, no one was actually hurt. However in a world much closer to Sorkins other creation, The West Wing we know that the truth can also be hard to bear. In the case of our own Government are we able to handle the truth?
This morning on Radio 4, Today programme Madeleine Moon, Labour MP for Brigend was speaking about the Military Covenant and she calmly conceded something which should have been a major item in the programme. Asked by John Humphreys about the commitment to the Covenant Ms Moon admitted that Governments over promise and fail to follow through on their commitments. John Humphreys carried out as if nothing had been said, apparently unperturbed by this frank admission. However here is an MP willing to accept something which many of us believe is at the heart of the canker within our nation. Madeleine Moon should be commended for her openness but then we need to know if she is right or simply cynical. If she is right, it is time for us to hear from our Political leaders. I wrote about this over promising and under delivering a few days ago so I believe she is right. However shockingly our MPs also know she is right.
According to this report, on Tuesday night Labour MPs tabled a motion which was not opposed by the Government which means that they accept its words in their totality. The motion declared that Margaret Thatcher’s government “misled the public” about pit closure plans during the 1984 miners strike. The motion goes on to explain that the government of the day had sought to “influence police tactics”. The information is based on records that have come to light since they were published earlier this year as part of the Governments publication under the 30 year rule. What is most shocking is that a mere year ago supporters of Margaret Thatcher, some of whom had served with her in the Government of the early 1980s and would have been involved in these deceitful actions, demanded that Parliament be recalled following her death and called for a national holiday to be dedicated to her memory. Lies and Deceit may be understood as being part of Government activity by many of our MPs and people like John Humphreys but this is not what the public wants, based on comments by my own friends and colleagues.
We need to see a total change of Culture within Westminster (and within the Today Programme) and one way of assisting this would be for Parliament to agree to release its records at the end of each year or at worst, every 5-10 years. It may be assumed that after 30 years the Prime Minister and their Ministerial Colleagues will have retired or died. However the truth is too important for such a delay, that is assuming we can handle the truth! I think we can. The title to Sorkins play and film came from a quote from George Washington “It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones” Sadly we are faced with 650 people in the Commons plus around 900 in the Lords, many of whom appear to be rather indifferent. I am with Washington. Lets have fewer in each house that are good and honest and prepared for proper accountability, rather than 1500, some of whom are willing to hide behind 30 years of secrecy and ‘right to recall’ bills that gives all of the power to Parliament, and prevent us from recalling those that lie to us.