by Tim Slessor.
Tim Slessor became interested in cover-ups and lies in Whitehall as a result of research into the death of his father on HMS Glorious in 1940. He started to question official accounts and his experience in this case led him to doubt the “official line” in other areas too. As he points out he is by no means the only one with doubts and questions…
“The crdibility gap is now so large that almost any denying statement from Whitehall serves to widen that gap even further… in short, dissembling, or at the least, manipulation is now perceived to be the norm.” (p.2)
The writer looks at seven cases where Whitehall has sought to mislead the public:
The removal of the Ilois people
The sinking of the Belgrano
The crash of Chinook helicopter Zulu Delta
Gulf War illnesses
The Sinking of HMS Glorious and her escorts
The case of Major Stankovic
The case of Colonel Carter I had a rough idea of the outline of some of these controversies. Others I was previously unaware of. The removal of the Ilois from their native islands in favour of a US Navy base and their subsequent decline as a people was very moving. The description of how the British authorities sought to re-classify them as temporary residents in order to deny their rights displayed the arrogant, corrupt and bureaucratic mind-set so typical of our establishment.
Sadly, there is little evidence to suggest that such injustice is impossible now. There are very few checks and balances in place to prevent them. Some banked on a Freedom of Information Act to help. In opposition, Tony Blair stated:
“Freedom of information is absolutely fundamental to how we see politics developing in this country. It will signal a new relationship which sees the public as legitimate stakeholders in the running of the country.” (From a speech at the Campaign for Freedom of Information’s annual awards, 25 March, 1996).
Now in power he has done little to introduce an effective Act. Clause 32 allows the authorities to, for example, withhold information if, in their view, disclosure would “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”. As the writer points out this could mean just about anything. Note also in the quote from Blair above the implicit admission that hitherto the public has not been regarded as legitimate stakeholders in the running of the country! That just about sums it up! Tim Slessor suggests that the media might be the only effective restraint on Whitehall disinformation. I believe that this will, in general, prove to be a vain hope. There may be isolated cases where deceit is investigated and uncovered but this will not change the political and institutional culture. It also underestimates how far the Fifth Estate is itself aligned with and interweaved with other establishment elements.
Despite this, Tim Slessor’s book deserves a wide audience. He has done a lot of painstaking research and the stories he tells will hopefully right some wrongs and set the record straight. It provides an important insight into the psychology of an important part of our ruling class.