Dirty politics and the perversion of a new freedom

Share
Related Topics

The law on freedom of information came into force less than six weeks ago, but it has already stirred up a veritable hornets' nest of controversy. And the arguments, all too predictably, have been less about what has been released than about what has not been released - or released only tardily, such as the papers relating to Britain's ignominious exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on "Black Wednesday".

The law on freedom of information came into force less than six weeks ago, but it has already stirred up a veritable hornets' nest of controversy. And the arguments, all too predictably, have been less about what has been released than about what has not been released - or released only tardily, such as the papers relating to Britain's ignominious exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on "Black Wednesday".

These were finally published in full yesterday. But they might well not have been, had an exchange of letters between civil servants not found its way to the BBC. This showed that those blocking full release were not, as had been scurrilously put about last weekend, the prime minister and chancellor of the day, but those with a more immediate interest in their non-appearance.

This thoroughly dishonourable saga followed hard on the heels of reports that Labour supporters had been encouraged to request information that could be used to discredit the Tories in the coming election campaign. Information can, of course, be used by opponents of the Government, too. The list of guests entertained by Mr Blair at taxpayers' expense at Chequers may be a case in point. Equally political is ministers' - apparently successful - resistance to releasing details of their diary engagements, even though the identity of those they meet professionally is indisputably a matter of public interest. This may have to be fought in the courts.

What we are seeing here is information being requested, and then released, withheld or used, for purposes that are nakedly political. This is nothing less than a perversion of what the legislation was intended for. The fact that it came into force at the start of a year which is likely to see a hard-fought election may not have been foreseen when the date of implementation was set. But the consequences of this timing are dire.

It is early days, of course. But the misrepresentation and excuses that preceded the release of the Black Wednesday documents suggest that there will be little in the way of genuine freedom of information until after the election - if then.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game