Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Chatham House Rules OK !

Hush, hush ! Whisper who dares. A political party is having a real debate about a life and death issue. I am, of course, referring to the Liberal Democrats who are discussing the future of Trident. Of course, we don't really want anyone to know, which may explain why all previous publicity about the Spring Conference in Harrogate talks about the major debate on Crime and one or two other matters. Oh and yes, there's also a debate on Trident. It does get a mention in the small print.

In an attempt to raise both the level and volume of debate, I have published some articles. In one of these, I quoted some of the very thin arguments advanced by members of the party's Federal Policy Committee. So far, so good. But I committed the unforgivable sin of identifying the mouths from which such wisdom gushed. If you don't know, the Chatham House Rule permits the repetition of what is spoken but forbids the identification of the speaker. If you don't know, and I didn't, this rule applies to that committee. It is perfectably understandable why anyone uttering such mindswill* as I heard at the committee would not want it repeated. What I cannot understand is the degree of indignation not to say bile, not to stay baseless slander which has bubbled, transpired and seeped from the committee.

The Chatham House Rule is a good rule and when I know it applies (e.g. at Chatham House) I respect it. I am sorry that I broke a rule which I didn't know applied. But I am much, much sorrier that there are still people in the Liberal Democrats who think that Britain still needs to waste a fortune threatening the rest of the world with weapons of mass destruction.

*"Mindswill : an unintentional neologism coined by misprint and describing arguments of no value.

1 comment:

Linda Jack said...


Glad to have found your blog! Yes, you are right. I may not have named people unless I had checked with them first, but the Chatham House palava was never explained and I can understand why one wouldn't anticipate it being in force in a democratic body. I have just come from a democratic council meeting which is recorded because of our accountablity to our constituents.