Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Times front page today returns to the campaign by the president-elect of the British Veterinarian Association, John Blackwell, to push for a ban on non-stunned slaughter of meat in the UK (see also Daily Telegraph).

Blackwell in an interview with The Times last March, expressed his desire to see stunning adopted as a practice in the UK overriding exemptions currently in place to allow Muslim and Jewish dietary laws to be observed.

The Times front page today relays statistics from the latest survey published by the Food Standards Agency yesterday which the BVA claims show that halal slaughter methods that do not use pre-stunning have “soared because of campaigning by Muslims for traditional methods of slaughter.”

The BVA suggests that halal and kosher slaughter has increased by 60% in the last year comparing survey results from 2012 and 2013. But the FSA claims the surveys are not directly comparable because of the different sample sizes used to generate the figures on animal slaughter from red and white meat slaughterhouses in the different years. The FSA acknowledged an increase in the non-stunned slaughter of sheep and goats from 2011 to 2013 stating there had been an increase of 5% over the two year period, up from 10 to 15%.

From the FSA’s latest survey, statistics on halal slaughter (taken from a representative sample from 301 slaughterhouses over one week in September 2013) show that of the 44,216 cattle slaughtered, 1,437 (3%) were slaughtered by the halal method and from which 366 were not stunned before slaughter, accounting for 0.8% of total cattle slaughtered.

The total number of sheep and goats slaughtered in 2013 was 295,000 of which 121,472 (41%) were slaughtered using the halal method. Of these 44,950 were not stunned prior to slaughter, accounting for 15.2% of the total.

And 17,067,641 poultry was slaughtered of which 3,667,593 (21%) used the halal method and from which 572,405 were not stunned prior to slaughter, accounting for 15.6% of the total.

The FSA survey states, “The results indicate overall that the number of animals not stunned prior to slaughter accounted for 2% of cattle, 15% of sheep and goats and 3% of poultry.”

The proportions are significant when one considers the amount of attention the issue of halal meat in the UK has generated. The proportions are also significant when one considers the emphasis placed by the BVA and other animal rights organisations on animal welfare concerns arising from religious slaughter with no comparable regard, according to Muslim and Jewish representative bodies, for “mis-stunning” which can cause considerable pain to animals too.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph last year Muslim and Jewish representatives responded to calls by animal welfare activists for clearer food labelling guidelines on stunned and non-stunned slaughter saying, “They [consumers] should also be told the method of slaughter: captive bolt shooting, gassing, electrocution, drowning, trapping, clubbing or any of the other approved methods.

“Comprehensive labelling should be supported by faith communities and animal welfare groups alike.

“It would offer all consumers genuine choice, whether they are motivated by animal welfare, religious observance, or even intolerance of anyone who looks or worships differently to them.

The Times front page story follows news coverage yesterday of the BVA petition calling for an end to non-stun slaughter passing the 100,000 signatures threshold necessary to prompt a backbench debate on the issue.

Blackwell told the paper, “We urge the chairman of the backbench business committee to honour the epetition and pledge that an end to non-stun slaughter will be debated at the first opportunity in the next parliament.”

The Times in an editorial today has thrown its weight behind the BVA campaign stating “If ministers want to see animals slaughtered humanely, they have the powers and the public support to make it so. It is disingenuous to take any other course.”

The editorial refers to the traditional method observed by some Muslims, who prefer non-stunned slaughter in their definition of constitutes halal, as “backwardness” stating “There is no sound justification for this cruelty. It is not a matter of religion, but a question of unnecessary pain and anguish. The British Veterinary Association has led a compelling campaign for a law that would oblige abattoirs to numb all animals before slaughter.”

While The Times and the BVA are within rights to consider religious slaughter “cruelty” to animals, any attempt to compel politicians to act in favour of a ban is likely to conflict with Article 9 of the European Convention with the European Court of Human Rights upholding the view that religious slaughter is a “religious act”.

The Evening Telegraph picks up on the passing of the 100,000 signatures threshold by a petition calling for support for the British Veterinarian Association’s campaign to introduce a full ban on non-stunned slaughter of meat in the UK.

The BVA president elect – John Blackwell – in a Radio 4 Today programme interview last March declared the association’s interest in advocating for a ban saying “We are looking for a meeting of minds to review the evidence base which clearly shows that slaughtering animals without stunning compromises welfare. If that can’t happen then I would like labelling at the point of sale that gives the consumer informed choice. If that is not possible we would be looking for a ban for killing without stunning.”

The petition, which names a number of animal welfare organisations including the BVA, the RSPCA and the Farm Animal Welfare Council, notes that:

  • over 80% of UK Halal slaughter is pre-stunned
  • hindquarters of animals killed by (non-stun) Shechita can enter the market unlabelled

It states, “While non-stun slaughter is permitted we call for clearer slaughter-method labelling and post-cut stunning to improve welfare.

“Non-stun slaughter affects millions of animals. We support a good life and a humane death for all animals.”

Last December, in a debate in the House of Commons, George Eustice MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, referred to the Government’s consideration of new food labelling rules in light of a European Commission study on the issue which is expected to be published shortly.

Eustice noted that labels such as ‘halal’ and ‘kosher’ were not the most genial because of differences in the definitions applied to the terms. He pointed out that an easier method may be labels such as “stunned” and “unstunned” because the European Commission has clear rules on what constitutes “stunning”.

A spokeswoman for DEFRA reiterated the Prime Minister’s declaration that religious slaughter methods would not be circumscribed by a Conservative Government, saying, “There are strict rules that govern the slaughter of animals in England which include additional conditions for religious slaughter and these remain unchanged.

“The Government has no intention of banning religious slaughter.

“The Government would prefer animals to be stunned before slaughter, but we respect the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their beliefs.

The Government’s response is unlikely to appease the animal rights lobby and the signatures garnered to date could force a backbench debate on the issue.

Parliament is this afternoon discussing the long-overdue report by the Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s role in the US-led invasion of Iraq after a group of MPs submitted a request to the Commons backbench committee to table a debate on the issue a couple of weeks ago.

David Davis MP, along with fellow MPs Dominic Grieve, former Attorney General, Norman Baker and Paul Flynn, sponsored the debate “calling on Chilcot to report within a matter of weeks”.

Sir John Chilcot has already advised the Prime Minister that the report will not be published before the general election despite attempts to make the report public before the purdah session descends, which prevents materials such as the Chilcot report being published too close to the date of an election.

Opening today’s debate, Davis called on the Chilcot Inquiry “to publish a timetable for publication and an explanation of the causes of the delay by 12 February 2015.”

He added, “The second Iraq war led to the deaths of more than 4,800 allied soldiers, 179 of them British. The lowest estimate of Iraqi civilian fatalities is 134,000, but plausible estimates put that number four times higher. So let us be clear—at least 134,000 innocent people died. The war created 3.4 million refugees, half of whom fled the country. It cost the British taxpayer £9.6 billion and it cost the American taxpayer $1,100 billion.

“The war has done untold damage to the reputation of the west throughout the middle east, and indeed among Muslim populations both at home and abroad. Initiated to protect the west from terrorism, it has in fact destroyed the integrity of the Iraqi state and triggered a persistent civil war that has created the conditions for perhaps the worst terrorist threat yet to the west—ISIL. It has done huge harm to the self-confidence and unity of the west, neutering our foreign policy. The war was, with hindsight, the greatest foreign policy failure of this generation, and I say that as someone who voted for it. So that is why the Chilcot inquiry was set up.”

Davis went on to give examples of inquiry’s set up elsewhere to look into government decisions to go to war and the speed with which such inquiries have reported back their findings, comparing this to the lengthy drawn out process that the Chilcot report has seen to date.

Davis went further, objecting to the length of time which has been afforded to those who are likely to be criticised in the final report to consult legal advice, the so called Maxwellisation process. Davis said, “Those due to be criticised in the final report are being allowed lengthy legal consultation. Although this is a necessary part of the process, strict time controls are needed. It cannot be right that those who are to be criticised can delay publication for their own benefit.”

The motion, if passed in Parliament, would see pressure applied by MPs for the report to be published before the election if the “within weeks” timeframe is honoured.

The Guardian and BBC News cover today’s report published by the Electoral Commission on countering voter fraud in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

Last year in a report on Electoral Fraud in the UK, the Commission stated this a problem “in areas which are largely or predominately populated by some South Asian communities, specifically those with roots in parts of Pakistan or Bangladesh.”

It further stated “evidence from police data and prosecutions shows that people accused of electoral fraud and people convicted of fraud come from a range of backgrounds including white British, South Asian and other European backgrounds. It would be a mistake to suggest that electoral fraud only takes place within specific South Asian communities.”

Nonetheless, to investigate the nature, type and extent of electoral fraud in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the Commission undertook to commission research into the subject and propose workable solutions to enable voters to fully participate in British elections.

The research completed by researchers at Manchester University identified 7 reasons for voter vulnerability to fraud classifying three as “structural” problems and four as “cultural” problems.

Reasons identified from qualitative interviews conducted with 37 political activists in eight areas of large South Asian population density, of which in four electoral fraud has surfaced in the past, were:

  • language and knowledge barriers,
  • community loyalties and pressures;
  • kinship networks;
  • lack of mainstream political party engagement;
  • discrimination in candidate selection;
  • insufficiency of safeguards for voting procedures; and
  • local economic deprivation

Researchers found that reliance on “kinship networks”, so called “biraderi” networks can be both a source of support for voters but also a hindrance to autonomy as “bloc vote” promises are offered to parties by “community leaders”.

The report argues that political parties share a portion of the blame for relying on “bloc votes” instead of investing in direct relationships with voters.

The report states:

“Our analysis strongly indicates that the primary source of this influence of kinship networks in politics lies in the lack of mainstream political party activity in the areas of concentration of Pakistani and Bangladeshi voters.

“This political void is filled by the ethnic kinship networks, which perform a role of a mediator between the British electoral system and immigrant-origin communities.

“Mainstream political parties were deemed by our interviewees to be only too happy to accept this middle-man role of kinship networks.”

The report advances a number of recommendations to tackle fraud at the ballot box including guarding information about who has a postal vote more closely, stricter and transparent guidelines on postal vote handling, widening the radius around polling stations in which canvassing is prohibited, increasing ethnic diversity within parties and improving outreach programmes by political parties targeting ethnic minority women.

An alarming fact mentioned in the report is the lack of knowledge among the political activists interviewed of the changes to electoral registration last June and the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration.

The issue of diversity within political parties and the failure to introduce appropriate changes to improve BME candidate selection and support arose in the Speakers Conference Report in 2011 on Parliamentary Representation. An indication of how far proposals to raise the number of BME candidates contesting seats for the mainstream parties can be gleaned from The Guardian’s analysis on the ethnic makeup of the country and the composition of Parliament. The 27 MPs of BME background which currently sit in Parliament are significantly less than the 117 expected if the House was proportionately representative of the country.

The forthcoming election presents major challenges to improving diversity in Parliament, combatting electoral fraud and reaching out to minority voters.

BBC News reports on yet another embarrassment for UKIP after an election candidate, Donald Grewar for Newport East, was alleged to have posted comments supporting the English Defence League on his Facebook page.

Grewar is alleged to have responded to an EDL post stating “no surrender to militant Islam or political correctness” with the comment: “Thus sais it all [sic]… the mood of the nation… well done EDL”

The news first surfaced earlier this week in the local paper, South Wales Argus, with a report on the turmoil engulfing the Newport branch of UKIP as party chairman, Mike Chaffin, set about “rid[ding] this branch of EDL sympathisers”.

Chaffin, in an address to local party members drew attention to Grewar’s post asking them “Do you consider someone who both praises the English Defence League and posts on the British National Party’s own website to be a suitable candidate?”

According to UKIP’s constitution, members are prohibited from association with far right organisations including the EDL, Britain First and the BNP, among others. Though this has not stopped members from either posting comments supportive of these far right racist organisations or refraining from making racist and prejudicial remarks.

In the run up to last year’s local elections, party leader Nigel Farage admitted that the party did not have the resources to vet all its selected candidates. It would seem the party’s infrastructure before the next general election is faring no better in keeping undesirables out.

Former Director of Public Prosecutions and Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Ken MacDonald of River Glaven QC, has a guest column in The Times today criticising the Government’s insistence, in the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill, on requiring higher education institutions “to play a formal role in an apparatus of surveillance”.

Lord MacDonald reflects on the provisions in Part 5 of the Bill and the Prevent Guidance, currently under consultation, which expects universities to “operate an ‘extremist’ speakers’ policy’ (without defining extremist); to vet in advance “content” of an event taking place on university premises including an outline of topics to be discussed and sight of any presentations; risk assessment procedures in relation to booked events to determine whether they should go ahead and sufficient notice of bookings, 14 days’ notice to allow for checks to be undertaken prior to scheduled date.

Apart from the unwelcome workload that will follow from the proposed measures, the requirements are too prescriptive to allow universities the flexibility to deal with debates that arise from current events. As centres that should lead with ideas and critical debate, it is hard to see how universities will play this role to the fullest when expected to operate under these restrictions. Lord MacDonald is right to point out the onerous burdens officers will be compelled to carry as they traipse through powerpoint slides ad nauseum as they “grimly polic[e] other people’s poorly argued speaking notes.”

The ridiculousness of the measures are summarised by Lord MacDonald thus:

“In future, apparently, it will be forbidden for anyone at a university to argue that democracy is wrong in principle (goodbye Plato), or to give a talk that fails “to respect individual liberty” or to offer “mutual respect and tolerance (to) different faiths and beliefs” (adieu to whole swathes of our Western intellectual history).”

In their quest to get universities to police “non violent extremism”, the Government is undermining the most valuable tool in the ‘war on terror’, young minds that are able to analyse, dissect and scrutinise ideas weighing up their value and virtue objectively. By insisting that universities operate under such guarded boundaries of “non violent extremism” the parameters for resisting “violent extremism” are narrowed further. If ideas cannot be aired and contested – where do they go but underground?

The emphasis on “non violent extremism” as Spinwatch researchers postulate in their brilliant study, the Cold War on British Muslims, is a doctrine coined by neo-conservatives to entrap “politically active Muslims” and place them under the security radar as a latent threat to western democracies. It is a doctrine which has strong champions in the Conservative Party whose neo-con affiliations are no secret.

Of course the Guidance the Home Secretary is charged with devising pays little heed to more credible factors that influence young people into pursuing a “sought-after death in the desert”, and which universities are well placed to mitigate through education: employment prospects for young Muslims.

The overemphasis on universities in counter-terrorism policy has been well documented over the years with the Home Affairs select committee inquiry into the Roots of Violent Radicalisation noting “We consider that the emphasis on the role of universities by government departments is now disproportionate.”

The Caldicott Inquiry, called after the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab amid suspicion of his radicalisation while a student at University College London, concluded that “there is no evidence to suggest that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was radicalised while at UCL.”

Provost of UCL, Professor Malcolm Grant responded to calls for professors to do more to identify potential extremists back in 2011 calling the idea “stupid” adding, “It was stupid to say that of those convicted of terrorism offences, more than 30 per cent had been to university, and to suggest that there was a link. It is simply a reflection of the fact that a large proportion of the population have been to university. There seems to be no evidence of a causal connection between attendance at university and engagement in religiously inspired violence.”

And the chief executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2011 further added that “You cannot draw the conclusion that because wild things are said at university that automatically equates to radicalisation.”

It is depressing to say the least that years after trying a policy that was shown to be flawed and unworkable, the Coalition is trying to fast-track it through parliament. Of course there will be some beneficiaries of the Government’s approach: neo-con linked organisations.

Manchester Evening News reports on the suspension of a council worker from his post at Manchester City Council after a member of the public alerted the newspaper to an anti-Muslim message posted by the worker on his Facebook page.

Dave Balderstone, 46, responded to a message on the BNP’s page which, set against a Union Jack backdrop, said “Isn’t it weird that in Britain our flag offends so many people, yet our benefits don’t…”

Balderstone replied with the message “Kick Islam out of Britain – we need our country back.”

A reader who spotted the message called the MEN who contacted the city council.

According to a new social media protocol adopted by Manchester City Council last autumn, employees are prohibited from posting comments on official or private accounts which either bring the council into disrepute or breach the employee code of conduct. The code of conduct, consistent with the public sector duty introduced in the 2010 Equality Act, stipulates that employees should not discriminate on racial grounds.

Balderstone has been suspended from his position as an IT support technician while the council carries out an investigation into the Facebook post.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi pens a guest column for the Observer this week in which she lambasts the Coalition’s record onengaging with British Muslims since coming to power in 2010. Reflecting on the consequences of the Communities Secretary writing a letter to British imams urging them to exercise their “precious opportunity and important responsibility” to tackle extremism without making any effort to cultivate bonds of friendship and trust or taking seriously Muslim fears over escalating levels of Islamophobia whilst in power, Lady Warsi warns that a “trust deficit” between British Muslims and the Government has emerged.

Lady Warsi raises some interesting facets to the way the Coalition has gone about “engaging” noting the creation of “a high-level committee to decide whether a group or individual was someone ministers could engage with.”

There are no details revealed of who sat on this committee and what authority they possessed to pronounce judgment on so important an issue as Government engagement with the largest faith community after Christians.

Lady Warsi also discloses the disagreements arising from the high-level committee’s judgments and the rigour of its due diligence stating, “Both the setting up of this committee and its less than impressive non-evidence-based submissions divided colleagues in the cabinet.”

The divisions in Cabinet over the Government’s policy on engaging with Muslims was evident from the outset following the appalling speech delivered by PM David Cameron in Munich on “muscular liberalism” and a vastly different angle taken by the Deputy PM Nick Clegg in a speech delivered in Luton days later.

Divisions in cabinet were also outlined by Peter Oborne in a column in the Spectator in February 2011. Oborne wrote of the ‘factions’ in Cabinet consisting of Michael Gove’s Celsius 7/7 thesis devotees,  George Osborne, Dr Liam Fox, Oliver Letwin and Theresa May, and their detractors Baroness Warsi, Nick Clegg and former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.

In his Munich speech in 2011, Cameron said, “We need to think much harder about who it’s in the public interest to work with.  Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism.”

The argument is retrospectively amusing given that those organisations who have been lavished with public funds by the Coalition and who have presented themselves as “moderate” Muslims voices are precisely those who have “do[ne] little to combat extremism.”

But the logic was never pragmatic, only ever ideological and while “extremist” Muslim organisations have been painstakingly scrutinised over their compliance with “British values”, the work of so called counter-extremism think tanks has rarely beenrigorously challenged.

Lady Warsi points out the idiocy of a strategy that “view[s] ever-increasing numbers of Muslim organisations or individual activists with suspicion and dangerously narrow[s] engagement to a dozen people from a community of more than three million.”

It is little surprise that Lord Ashcroft in his study on the appeal of the Conservative Party to BME voters found that 35.15% of Muslims said they would never consider voting Conservative, second highest after those of ‘no religion’.

And given the serious failings in Government over action on Islamophobia, it is unlikely that the party will fare any better in the upcoming general election. Indeed, Warsi notes that “not a single major government speech has reflected the concerns, worries and, yes, fear within the British Muslim community.”

Lady Warsi shows that the Coalition’s approach has not been consistent comparing its attitude to the Muslim Council of Britain to its engagement with the Jewish Leadership Council. Both organisations are communal representative bodies and both have detractors within their own communities with other large communal organisations disputing their respective claims to being ‘representative’. Nonetheless, while the MCB’s representative status has been perennially contested, the Government has taken a very different tack with the JLC.

Baroness Warsi states: “An incredibly good blueprint already exists within government: the prime minister has an annual meeting led by the Jewish leadership council where a whole range of issues affecting the British Jewish community are discussed. I’ve had the privilege of being part of these meetings with the prime minister. I’ve argued for a long time that the prime minister should hold a similar meeting with other major faith communities. Sadly this has not been forthcoming.”

Whether it is the Conservative party’s stance on Palestine, its lacklustre record on challenging Islamophobia, or the party’s failure to put its heart into engaging with Muslim voters, it faces a steep uphill battle in reversing the “trust deficit” which could cost it an election.

The Independent on Saturday featured a front page story on the rise in Islamophobic incidents in schools following the murders at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris.

The paper reports that a number of incidents have been logged in which Muslim pupils have been verbally or physically abused as teachers prepare classroom exercises exploring issues of religion, offence and freedom of speech.

The news article comes days after a Scottish paper, the Evening Times, disclosed figures on racist bullying in schools in Scotland released under Freedom of Information.

The Independent quotes a spokesperson from the teachers’ union NASUWT who told the paper that Muslim pupils were being taunted with jibes like “terrorists”, “paedophiles” or “immigrants”. The NASUWT further said that the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in schools was causing “uncertainty and fear”.

It was a year ago that the children’s charities, NSPCC and ChildLine, published a report on the counselling provided to pupils in schools who were victims of bullying. The report found that racist bullying had increased by 69% in the year 2011-2012 with Muslim children abused with words like “terrorist” and “bomber” and told to “go back to where they came from”. The report also referred to the conflation of racial and religious prejudice with the issue of immigration.

Laura Pidcock, education team manager of Show Racism the Red Card, a charity which has produced teaching packs to help teachers plan lessons for schoolchildren with the aim of challenging racial and religious prejudice told the Independent: “What we are seeing is a process of homogenisation between immigrants and Islam. Young children equate immigrants with Muslims, and Muslims with immigrants. There is a perception of Muslims as a single collective body and a sense that this can be a threat. We would like to see room made in the curriculum for the sort of work that encourages pupils to think for themselves and challenge these sort of views.”

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: “For many teachers and pupils across the UK, there is a growing sense that the promotion of anti-Islamic sentiments is fostering a climate of uncertainty and fear in schools. Teachers are in the frontline in promoting and advancing human values and human rights.”

The Independent also notes the response of the Department of Education to information about the rise in Islamophobic bullying in schools. A spokesperson told the paper that the DfE “did not provide specific advice on Islamophobia to schools but said it had no opposition to suitable material on the issue being distributed.”

The DfE not taking a proactive approach to rising Islamophobia in schools is to be contrasted with the support given by theDepartment for Communities and Local Government to schools to tackle anti-Semitism. In its 2012 Hate Crime Strategy, DCLG is tasked with overseeing “Support [for] the Jewish Museum to roll out a pilot programme to secondary schools to raise awareness and understanding of Jewish Faith and tackle ‘casual’ anti-semitism in schools.”

The Coalition’s track record in showing any comparable regard for rising Islamophobia in British society is something we have criticised a number of times. In an election year, maybe the Government will be minded to take note?

The Guardian and Independent front pages today cover the announcement that the report of the Chilcot Inquiry, into Britain’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2003, will not be published until after the general election. Also covered in The Daily Telegraph, The Sun (£), Daily Mirror and the Financial Times (£).

The papers today report that Sir John Chilcot, chair of the inquiry, has confirmed that the report will indeed be delayed until after the election. In a letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, placed on the inquiry website, Sir John wrote:

Indy210115“Until we have received and evaluated responses from all those who have been given the opportunity to respond, I cannot give an accurate estimate for how long it will then take to complete our work, but it is clear that will take some further months. I therefore see no realistic prospect of delivering our report to you before the General Election in May 2015.”

The Maxwellisation process, which entails allowing those who are to be criticised in the report advance notice of this in order to prepare a response has long been suspected to be behind current delays. The inquiry ceased taking evidence in 2011 and 2014 disclosed that delays were attributable to the non-disclosure of sensitive material to the inquiry. Following a compromise reached with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir John Heywood, the inquiry proceeded on the basis of quoting the “gist” of the non-disclosed material.

The Guardian notes that the report was purportedly among matters discussed by the Prime Minister with the US President last week during his official visit. According to The Guardian, “It is understood the publication date of the inquiry was discussed by the UK and American delegations when Cameron met Barack Obama at the White House last week. But the threat of a Commons vote will have added urgency to the issue.”

Guardian210115The Sunday Telegraph last week reported on the motion proposed by a group of MPs, including the Rt. Hon. David Davis and Dominic Grieve and Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker to the Backbench Committee to table a debate on the delayed report with a call for it to be “published in a matter of weeks”. The backbench MPs were to push for a debate and a vote in the Commons on 29January to expedite publication and ensure its contents were made public before the general election.

The motion was proposed on the back of a Lords debate on the question of whether the ‘purdah’ period would further delay the publication of the report as we approach the general election.

The Guardian also notes that Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP, has written to Sir John Chilcot stressing the impact on public confidence in political authority and the inquiry if the report is subjected to any further delays. Clegg wrote on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq in 2013 that the lessons of the Iraq war had to be learnt and the inquiry report was a fundamental means to that end. He also stated last year, in response to initial suggestions that the report would not meet a 2014 publication deadline, that its publication be expedited.

In response to the latest news, Clegg in a letter to the Inquiry wrote:

“The public have waited long enough and will find it incomprehensible that the report is not being published more rapidly than the open-ended timetable you have now set out.

“We need to see a much clearer and more defined timetable, known publicly, with strict deadlines and a firm date for publication.

“If the findings are not published with a sense of immediacy, there is a real danger the public will assume the report is being ‘sexed down’ by individuals rebutting criticisms put to them by the inquiry, whether that is the case or not.”

The Liberal Democrats’ frustration is understandable given that it is the one party to really gain from prompt publication. The party did not support military intervention in Iraq. And though the Labour Party was likely to feel the greater pressure from former PM Tony Blair’s decision to commit UK troops in the US-led invasion, his decision received considerable support from then leader of the opposition and David Cameron’s predecessor, Sir Michael Howard.

The only ones to lose out from the post-election publication of the report will be voters who will not now be given the opportunity to respond via the ballot box for a catastrophic decision.