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Tuesday, November 15, 2011 

It never ends (or some pun involving the prime of Mr Brodie (Clark)).

One of the main reasons why politics attracts the most anally retentive of obsessives, such as people who write interminable blogs for years on the subject, is simple: it never fucking ends. Well, it sort of doesn't: most sports at least have a close season, although in football this has since been replaced by endless transfer rumours, interrupted only by the World Cup or Euro Championships every other year; politics has the times when parliament is in recess, although in principle this barely affects things. Interspersed as it has become with contemporary history, an issue is never truly settled: if declaring the End of History is about as stupid as it gets (and I do mean in the real sense that Fukuyama decided that liberal democracy had triumphed, when if there's one thing that history should teach us, all empires eventually fall), then it's equally foolish to imagine that we can't for the umpteenth time go through the case for and against in Iraq (and sadly it's now those who were against who can't shut the fuck up about how right they were, which is sad when we were right).

This is most obvious in the debate about the European Union and especially now the Euro. The new orthodoxy is that the Eurozone was always doomed to fail, and perhaps it was. The problem is that outside of those with monomania about the organisation, who for the most part are the most crushing bores in the most crushing of subjects, few consistently said so. It also ignores how even if the PIGS do eventually have to leave the Eurozone, it could eventually make it stronger, and indeed, one of the solutions being proposed is for an even more integrated fiscal union, which is not by any means a good thing in the long term.

At least the potential collapse of the entire European economic system is a pressing issue that will genuinely affect us all. Far less important is the Leveson inquiry, which it seems will now last for potentially years to come. This could be the ultimate example of being careful in what you wish for: those of us who've banged on about phone hacking and press standards for years would have always loved a judge led inquiry into the former and a royal commission into the latter; what we've got is a hodge podge in which celebrities seem determined to grab the stage for themselves. It's not perhaps surprising that Hugh Grant would like something close to French-style privacy laws when he's knocking up 31-year-olds (named Ting Ting, no less), an affair first described as "fleeting". That those who want privacy often have a lot to be private about is usually a classic misnomer, but sometimes it's also painfully close to the truth.

And so it also is on the even less life threatening issue of who authorised what when at the Home Office and UK Border Agency. Over a week on, and despite the appearances of both Theresa May and now the wonderfully named Brodie Clark before the home affairs select committee no one is any the wiser over what happened, or indeed why this should be seen as such a horrific scandal, especially when we still don't know the whole story behind Dr Fox and Mr Werritty, an issue with far greater impact on national security. May authorised a more focused scheme that according to the Tories improved detection rates (Mandy Rice-Davies etc), but didn't supposedly give Clark the go ahead to go slightly further and relax measures more widely. Some of this relaxation, it should be noted, does seem to be asking for it: not checking the passports of those on private jets for instance, always notable for being completely in line with all domestic law.

Far less ignoble is making life a little less demanding on the staff and passengers who go through our airports, especially when we're still insisting they can't take liquids on the plane over a certain size, regardless of the chances of a plane dropping out of the sky due to Islamists with exploding Fanta bottles being around 0.01%. Equally risible is the notion that going through airports is one of the main transit points for illegal migrants or potential terrorists: the former tend to come in through stowing away on trucks rather than planes, while the latter tend to be homegrown rather than foreign. We won't ever know the number of criminals or terrorists who managed to evade detection due to the relaxation, but one suspects it numbers somewhere between 0 and 0.

Rather then than putting this whole tedious affair to bed as soon as possible, it looks as though it's going to drag on till January when the official inquiry reports. As Simon Hoggart at the end of his sketch suggests, the likely explanation for the whole thing is that the UKBA has recently received a new chief executive eager to please, who swiftly discoverd something that terrified the home secretary enough to sack the old broom civil servant out of fear for her job, not caring what it meant for him. Add in the continuing hysterical attitude towards immigration, so out of kilter with reality that even David "swamping" Blunkett fears the debate is turning xenophobic, and we've got another subject to chew the fat over for weeks at a time.

You can but hope that Keith Vaz, no stranger to scandal himself, gets his way and the papers which might just clear this mess up will be released sooner than later. Until then, and this may come across as slightly hypocritical from someone who himself has proved he can't stop yabbering about inanities, we ought to shut up about it. This must cease.

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