Telling It Like It Is Essay Research — страница 2

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believe. Virtually everyone in government is subject from time to time to adverse briefing, from rivals, from opponents, from dissatisfied interest groups, from young tyros wanting to appear important when talking to journalists. It’s all part of the warp and weft of politics. On the whole, the best way to deal with it is to ignore it; and in a way I wish Mo had done that in this book. If, however, the things she reports were indeed being said, they were very wide of the mark. It was said that she was somehow “too popular”. She was hugely popular, yes, and still is, and rightly so. In fact, that was a major asset for the party and the government. It was said that she had offended the unionists. This was surely part of her job. Any Northern Ireland secretary who doesn’t

from time to time offend the various parties she or he has to deal with is probably not making any progress at all. And it was said that she was somehow “lightweight” at the cabinet table. Anyone who might have said that doesn’t know Mo. Behind the charm and the informality there’s a sharp political mind, and an ability to shape and manipulate events. Mo is an effective political player, even if she is kicking off her shoes and dumping her wig on the table at the same time. Indeed, in writing parts of this book, Mo knew that she’d create a storm – much in the same way as she did when she walked through the gates of the Maze. When she moves from talking about briefings to talking about the way the government operates, she is doing so deliberately: not out of revenge

(as some commentators have erroneously suggested), but as a way of raising issues that any government has to address – about inclusivity, about collectivism, and about what makes for good or bad government. She isn’t always right, but it’s surely valuable to the political culture for her to talk about it. Take one example. At one point she writes: “More and more decisions were being taken by Number 10 without consultation with the relevant minister or secretary of state.” In fact, this hardly ever happened, or happens. There is, however, a valid debate to be had about the changing nature of cabinet government; about the triangular decision-making processes between department, Treasury and Number 10; and about the balance that needs to be struck between the efficiency of

such a system and the more untidy but more inclusive nature of round-the-table cabinet discussion. These more general issues about the nature of governance are surely important. And if Mo doesn’t precisely address them, none the less no one should complain that she has struck out towards them. This is a book that has made a splash. Some will read it for the gossip or the occasional sally against parts of the government. The wise reader, however, will move rapidly on and read it for what it primarily is: the record of a momentous journey towards peace, and of the life and thoughts of a remarkable woman. · Chris Smith is Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury.