The news is full of two national tough questions that would be more than a test for most contestants on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The idea that our Government is faced with these questions in the midst of its own internal problems is an interesting parallel to the pressure that contestants must face with the lights, sound and time constraints that are a well known part of the popular show. First we have the question “consider the period from summer 2001, before military operations began in March 2003, and our subsequent involvement in Iraq”. Unfortunately this question does not lend itself well to the multiple choice structure of who wants to be a Millionaire, even though many people wish it had. On this question the Government has phoned an expert and rather than give a short and simple answer in 30 seconds, the Chilcott inquiry has produced a 2.6M word answer in 7 years. However some of the advance responses before the report is published offer insight into the workings of Governments and have a bearing on the second question. This response is that in the view of John Chilcott, our nation should never again go to war on other lands without a meaningful and thorough analysis of the implications of the decision to go to war, or to choose not to.
The second question is rather simpler in the asking but potentially no less complex in providing an adequate answer. This is “should we remain in the EU or leave?” On this question rather than phoning a friend, the Government chose to ask the audience as they had promised to do. On face value the audience response to this two option question is evenly split. To be sure there was a small but measurable majority in favour of leaving, but as we all know from the well known TV show, when the audience is evenly split over the answers on offer, the contestants in the hot seat tend to go with their gut or use one of the other lifelines. In my own view the audience was prevented from giving a true and genuine response to this question, and in that sense, whilst I accept the outcome of the vote I do not believe we were given a fair chance of answering this vital question. Clearly the referendum, just like Chilcott is not a TV game show and the answer will impact the audience, far more than the person asking the question. Perhaps of greater concern, the question whilst simple, was asked with cheerleaders on both sides of the two choices attempting to persuade the audience to respond to the answer in one way or another. Just as the decision to go to war in 2003 was taken with false data and dishonest promises, so too both sides of the campaign for us to remain or leave the EU presented their own dodgy dossiers of lies and exaggerations. Whereas the Iraq lies took years to come fully to light, long after the bombs had been dropped, the EU assertions on both sides are now evident for what they were. The truth is that our answers to the question is still valid. However the opposing sides on the EU campaign have to take responsibility for their actions, not just what they said at the time, but what has happened since and what they failed to do in preparation for the outcome which now looks like gross incompetence by the whole of our Government.