Guest Blog: Ross Meurant – Where lies the power?

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The Prime Minister and his/her cabinet?  Or the President and his/her cabal?  

Axiomatic!  Surely?

The latest diplomatic cable “leak’ out of the bowels of Britain’s bastion of bureaucracy, accuses President Trump of “diplomatic vandalism”, abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran for “personality reasons” because the pact had been agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama

This “leak” follows an earlier disclosure of diplomatic correspondence which emerged a week ago, when the then UK ambassador to America referred to the Trump administration as “clumsy and inept”.

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The Ambassador has since stepped down as US ambassador on Wednesday, saying it was “impossible” for him to continue.  This was the Ambassador’s own decision. He was not ‘fired’ and in fact, the two contenders for Prime Minister May’s job, both supported the Ambassador. 

These disclosures and outcomes may begin to expose the amount of power that faceless bureaucrats actually wield.  In this case, a bureaucrat is exposed as having delivered constant deluge of critical opinion of a President – and that he survived suggests that his opinion was making a positive impression on his masters and therefore, policy.

But wait!  Maybe there’s more?

More faceless bureaucrats appear to have been upset with the disclosures of the Ambassador’s missives, and launched an enquiry claiming there was a “clear public interest” in bringing those responsible to justice! 

Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner claims there is a “clear public interest” in bringing those responsible for publishing the leaked documents, to justice.

Is this another example of elected representatives who have been selected to the esteemed office of Cabinet, being undercut by unelected mandarins?

In this case, Mr. Plod deciding that the public should not know what is going on behind closed doors. Mr. Plod appears to hold the view that the power wielded by bureaucrats should not be open to public scrutiny.

However!  

The next Prime Minister of UK – Jeremy Hunt says: “These leaks damaged UK/US relations & cost a loyal ambassador his job so the person responsible MUST be held fully to account. But I defend to the hilt the right of the press to publish those leaks if they receive them & judge them to be in the public interest: that is their job.

So, maybe the power lies with the elected representatives, after-all?

This charade also plays out contemporaneously in Australia, where Home Affairs Peter Dutton (himself a former policemen), seems hell bent on prosecuting three journalist for revealing plans for the national surveillance department to spy on its citizens.

However!

Attorney-General Christian Porter has backed away from earlier assurances that journalists aren’t being targeted by police.

The statement suggests Mr. Porter was not told of the full extent of the police probe, which appears to not just cover a hunt for the whistleblowers but also the reporters who received the information.

Conversely, Mr. Dutton on Friday rejected demands from media chiefs to drop any action against the reporters, arguing “nobody is above the law“.

Meanwhile!

News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller says, that Mr. Dutton is using laws more than 100 years old to prosecute and intimidate Annika and all journalists who seek to ensure the Australian public’s right to know.

He says: “The process in Australia is being watched very closely,” he said. “If we get it right, it will set the benchmark for other countries struggling with the balance between security and press freedom.”

CONCLUSION.

At the end of the day, it seems to be that the Forth Estate, is “where the power lies”.

But it is and probably always will be and certainly was, if we are to believe Voltaire, a power which is constantly under threat.  

As Voltaire warned: “To hold a pen is to be at war.”

 

Ross Meurant is a former Police Officer, Politician and author. His current book is available to purchase here…

 

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