Prime Minister George Osborne payed tribute to Hamer in the House of Commons
“Michael Howard led tributes today to Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer who was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan. The President praised Hamer’s “courage, skill and dedication”, while colleagues said he was “popular”. Hamer, 39, who was married with three young children, died of his wounds at the scene north-west of Nawa. He is the first British journalist to be killed in the current conflict in Afghanistan. The newspaper’s photographer, Philip Coburn, was injured in yesterday’s blast, which also killed a US Marine and an Afghan soldier, the MoD said. Coburn, 43, is in a serious but stable condition, the MoD said. He and Hamer embedded themselves with the US Marine Corps when they were caught in the explosion. They were accompanying a patrol when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. According to the Sunday Mirror, the experienced pair flew to the region on New Year’s Eve for a trip scheduled to last a month. He wanted to embed himself with the US marines at the start of their surge into southern Afghanistan.” - Sunday Mirror's Rupert Hamer killed in Afghanistan, Press Gazzette (2010)
2010 started with dark news for the Commonwealth. Sunday Mirror defence correspondent Rupert Hamer was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, making him the 17th journalist to be killed in the Afghanistan War. This brought the issue of wars in the Middle East to the forefront of British politics once again, just as Aliastair Campbell was called before the Chillcot inquiry.
Police had to escort Campbell through a scrum of press
Most commentators agreed that Campbell gave a mixed performance and seemed rattled. He said he defended "every word" of the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD - which included the infamous "45 minute" claim. He said he was "very proud" of the part he played and Britain should be proud of its role in bringing democracy to Iraq. He revealed Blair had sent a series of notes to George Bush in which he said, should military action become necessary, Britain would "be there". In the afternoon he also suggested Blair had not included Paddy Ashdown in the "inner circle" of advisers on the war. Campbell justified this saying the Government couldn't trust Ashdown not to leak information.
After Campbell’s appearance was Chillcot’s “main attraction” former President Tony Blair. Despite losing his Presidency Blair had remained in the public eye often appearing as a commentator in the media. Some had expected Blair’s election defeat to humble him, they had been wrong.
Blair said the Iraq war made the world a safer place and he had "no regrets" about removing Saddam Hussein. In a nervous defence of his decision to back war, Blair said Saddam was a "monster and he threatened the world." A member of the public barracked he former President as Blair made his closing statement at the end of a six-hour grilling at the Iraq inquiry. He said Iraqis were now better off and he would take the same decisions again. Family members of service personnel killed in Iraq had been sitting behind Blair in the public gallery as Chilcot questioned him. Chilcot asked Blair at the end of the session if he had any regrets about the war. Blair said that although he was "sorry" it had been "divisive" he believed it had been right to remove Saddam. "It was better to deal with this threat, to remove him from office and I do believe the world is a safer place as a result." When Blair left some members of the public booed him and three women shouted at him "you are a liar" and "you are a murderer".
“Tony Blair has been accused of warmongering spin. The Former President claimed that western powers might be forced to invade Iran because it poses as serious a threat as Saddam Hussein. Richard Dalton, accused Blair of trying to make confrontation with Iran an electoral issue. This came after the former prime minister singled out its Islamic regime as a global threat in his evidence to the Iraq war inquiry yesterday. Blair said many of the arguments that led him to confront Saddam Hussein seven years ago now applied to the regime in Tehran. "We face the same problem about Iran today," he told the Chilcot inquiry. Dalton said it was essential that all the political parties made clear that there would be no repeat of Blair's actions in respect of Iran. "One result of Tony Blair's intervention on Iran is to put the question of confronting Iran into play in Parliament. We need to be much clearer, as voters, with our politicians that we expect a different behaviour and a greater integrity in our democracy next time." - Tony Blair accused of putting war with Iran on the electoral agenda, Today Programme, BBC Radio 4 (2010)
The anti-war Independent was not happy with Blair's statement
Gordon Brown was the next major Labour figure to give evidence. Gordon Brown told the Iraq inquiry the war had been "right" - and troops had all the equipment they needed. The former PM also insisted Tony Blair had not kept him in the dark, despite not being aware of some developments. His own intelligence briefings as PM had convinced him that Iraq was a threat that "we had to deal with", he said. But the main issue for him was that Iraq was in breach of UN resolutions - and that he could not allow "rogue states" to flout international law. If the international community could not act together over Iraq, Brown said, he feared the "new world order we were trying to create would be put at risk". He began the session by paying tribute to the "sacrifice" made by British servicemen and women. He then said: "it was the right decision and made for the right reasons." Brown acknowledged that there were "important lessons" for the country to learn from the way Iraq descended into chaos. "It was one of my regrets that I wasn't able to be more successful in pushing the Americans on this issue."
The inquiry had been an embarrassment for Labour who were still reeling from David Miliband’s planned departure. The Liberal Democrats also struggled to take advantage of any goodwill the inquiry may have created, whilst many members of the public respected Ashdown’s principled stand, anger over the Osborne coalition stopped the Lib Dems from taking advantage of the situation. The main beneficiary of the inquiry was the Greens, the only unabashedly anti-war national party. Pro-Green journalist Natalie Bennett took to the airwaves and made a name for herself as the voice of the British left , the Greens saw a small pick up in their vote, polling over 6% in one poll, which would earn them 40 seats.
Many disaffected Lib Dems voters and local politicians would make the jump to the Greens during the coalition
“The Green Party is polling at 6% in the Independent’s latest poll. The poll reveals that 12% of people who voted Lib Dem in 2008 intend to vote Green in 2011. The Green Party has been polling at some of their highest numbers ahead of a General Election since 2003, a breakthrough year. The Greens have been closing the small polling gap on UKIP (8%) in recent months. Richard Mallender, acting Green Party Parliamentary Leader, said: “As pollsters and commentators are recognising, next year's election will be a genuine five-party race. The four business-as-usual parties have shown they cannot move on from the failed policies of the past 30 years. It is not surprising that support for the Green Party is swelling. We're offering the idea of real change with a society. We're not going to see transformative change from UKIP or the Lib Dems. We offer a transformation of our economy so that it works for the common good, not for the good of the few. The Green Party's support for decent wages and benefits for all who need them offers the positive way forward." - 12% of people who voted Liberal Democrat in 2008 intend to #VoteGreen2011, Press Release on the Green Party’s Website (2010)
It wasn’t all sunshine for the Conservatives either, the Royal Mail dispute continued in deadlock. Osborne and Grieve were unwilling to back down, and neither was the CWU. Added to the Government’s woes, UNITE announced BA cabin crew would be going on strike over the crucial Easter period. BA cabin crew were striking over changes to pay and staffing levels imposed by the airline last November. Besides strike action, the union announced at a press conference that it would also ballot its members on BA's offer tabled earlier this week. UNITE said it would not recommend the deal. Shortly afterwards, BA boss Willie Walsh told the BBC that the airline's offer was no longer available. He said the offer was conditional on UNITE averting strike action, and so he had withdrawn it. Unite's assistant general secretary Len McClusky said the move by British Airways "beggared belief". UNITE denied that the offer was ever conditional. Both sides reasserted that they were available for further talks, but the language on both sides hardened. Walsh said the two parties were "not close at all" to coming to an agreement. The union's proposals to save more than £70m at the airline included staff pay cuts that BA described as "wrong". Walsh said Unite had failed to provide any credible plan to date.
With industrial action mounting the coalition was increasingly in trouble, however it would be nothing compared to the scandal the coalition was about to face its biggest scandal yet, when senior Ed Davey staffer Ibrahim Taguri was caught on camera offering favours to a fake businessman, in return for donations to the Lib Dems.
“Commonwealth party finance law in 2010 was as follows: Donations to parties from individuals or institutions was capped at 9 million. Campaign spending by parties was capped at £25 million. Trade unionists could "opt into" political affiliation (rather than "opt out" as at present). State aid to parties was disturbed on a cash-for-votes basis after Parliamentary elections (£4 per voter, for each party winning seats).” - Politics UK Textbook, Bill Jones (2018)
The Commonwealth's generous state aid policy came under scrutiny during the "Cash for Influence" scandal
Campaign finance is increasingly important in determining the outcome of Commonwealth elections.’ Analyse and evaluate this statement. (30 Marks) - A Level Politics Exam (2019)