Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 12 February 2005

Freedom of information will prevent future generations discovering why governments did what they did

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All journalists, by our nature, tend to favour freedom of information; but it does not necessarily follow that Freedom of Information is a good thing. The behaviour of the political parties since FoI has confirmed the worst fears of civil servants. The motive for discovery of information has been purely malicious: one feels very sorry for the public employees burrowing away unwillingly for Alastair Campbell’s friends. More serious, though, is the effect on government business. If politicians and bureaucrats know that whatever they put on paper will be open to scrutiny and political manipulation while their careers are still in progress, they will not write down anything worth saying. The consequence will therefore be that FoI will prevent future generations discovering why governments did what they did. The hated ‘sofa government’ is an early symptom of this.

British coverage of the current behaviour of Sinn Fein/IRA seems to leave out the key factor — the attitude of people in the Irish Republic. Because the British government will not allow devolved administration in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein participation, Sinn Fein has a stranglehold on the politics of the province. Even after the robbing of the Northern Bank, Gerry Adams is allowed to have meetings with our Prime Minister. Adams wants to use his Blair-given power to become the most important politician in the whole of Ireland. More and more Irish people now realise that this political rise of a criminal organisation threatens the Republic. There is even talk of Fianna F