Stating It Like It Is Essay, Research PaperStating it like it is Momentum Mo Mowlam 320pp, Hodder From all the pre-publicity during the past few hebdomads, you might hold thought that Mo & # 8217 ; s book was mostly about the interior workings and tensenesss of the 1997-2001 authorities, revealed for the first clip from within. It touches on some of these things, yes ; but overpoweringly this book is an intelligent, exhaustively clear history and analysis of the peace procedure in Northern Ireland. Its cardinal intent and its accomplishment is to demystify the turns and bends of the path to peace. After a brief ( and good ) history lesson, it leads us through the Byzantine procedure that secured the Good Friday Agreement, and so through the even more hard undertakings of prolonging public support and of really implementing it. Mo, of class, is better placed than anyone to detail for us the defeats, the hopes and wretchednesss, the victory and the near-disasters that made up the advancement towards understanding. What emerges from this history is non merely a graphic sense of the sheer wash uping trouble of it all, but an grasp of the fact that it is little stairss of give and take, something for one side, something for the other, that are needed & # 8211 ; coupled with an ability to acquire people to swear one another, or at the really least to put aside their entire misgiving. There are lessons here for everyone involved in struggle declaration around the universe & # 8211 ; needed now more than of all time. Towards the terminal of the book, Mowlam sets out in seven pages a checklist of 10 ingredients for the successful development of any peace aim.
Some of it is obvious, but there is much wisdom here: about inclusivity, about turn toing past grudges, and about taking hazards for peace. This should be required reading for Ariel Sharon. Mowlam describes how she recognised early on that her first and most of import undertaking & # 8211 ; the sine qua non of the exercising & # 8211 ; was to convey Sinn Fein into a realistic peace procedure ; and that the 2nd undertaking, holding secured the first, was to maintain the union members in it. Over clip, though with trouble, both were achieved. Mo & # 8217 ; s permanent bequest will be the function she played in guaranting that there was so a route to peace along which everyone else could falter. Without her the peace procedure would hold been far more hard, if non impossible. No 1 can or should make bold to take that off from her. She did it with a mixture of appeal, carefreeness and bluntness that was alone in the universe of political relations.
It comes through in the book, excessively. I & # 8217 ; m non certain that the consequence is ever decorous & # 8211 ; & # 8220 ; we were crap at managing the media & # 8221 ; ; & # 8220 ; we had a plod on responsibility at the forepart of the house & # 8221 ; ; & # 8220 ; I merely listened and took the crap & # 8221 ; & # 8211 ; but there & # 8217 ; s no 1 other than Mo who could acquire away with composing rather like that. This book has a breezy quality that is endearing and sometimes exasperating. At times it reads as though it was written in reply to a series of unobserved inquiries, or as though points on a list are being ticked off. But so Mo forgets to make that, and her authorship gallops off with its ain narrative and becomes all the better for it.
Taken as a whole, this is a good read & # 8211 ; and it will brush along even those who ne’er dreamed that they would be interested in the mazes of Northern Ireland political relations. In the old ages to come this book will be remembered above all for what it has to state about Ireland, approximately peace, and about the declaration of struggle. That’s the accolade it deserves. I suspect that the immediate interest will lie, though, in what some will see as the lifting of a veil – on the inner workings of the government, and on the thoughts that went through Mo’s own mind towards the end of her period in the cabinet. We have no way of knowing whether the barrage of briefings did in fact occur in the way she describes, or whether there was the degree of coordination to it that she has come to believe.
Virtually everyone in government is subject from time to time to adverse briefing, from rivals, from opponents, from dissatisfied interest groups, from young tyros wanting to appear important when talking to journalists. It’s all part of the warp and weft of politics. On the whole, the best way to deal with it is to ignore it; and in a way I wish Mo had done that in this book. If, however, the things she reports were indeed being said, they were very wide of the mark. It was said that she was somehow “too popular”.
She was hugely popular, yes, and still is, and rightly so. In fact, that was a major asset for the party and the government. It was said that she had offended the unionists. This was surely part of her job. Any Northern Ireland secretary who doesn’t from time to time offend the various parties she or he has to deal with is probably not making any progress at all. And it was said that she was somehow “lightweight” at the cabinet table. Anyone who might have said that doesn’t know Mo. Behind the charm and the informality there’s a sharp political mind, and an ability to shape and manipulate events.
Mo is an effective political player, even if she is kicking off her shoes and dumping her wig on the table at the same time. Indeed, in writing parts of this book, Mo knew that she’d create a storm – much in the same way as she did when she walked through the gates of the Maze. When she moves from talking about briefings to talking about the way the government operates, she is doing so deliberately: not out of revenge (as some commentators have erroneously suggested), but as a way of raising issues that any government has to address – about inclusivity, about collectivism, and about what makes for good or bad government.
She isn’t always right, but it’s surely valuable to the political culture for her to talk about it. Take one example. At one point she writes: “More and more decisions were being taken by Number 10 without consultation with the relevant minister or secretary of state.
” In fact, this hardly ever happened, or happens. There is, however, a valid debate to be had about the changing nature of cabinet government; about the triangular decision-making processes between department, Treasury and Number 10; and about the balance that needs to be struck between the efficiency of such a system and the more untidy but more inclusive nature of round-the-table cabinet discussion. These more general issues about the nature of governance are surely important. And if Mo doesn’t precisely address them, none the less no one should complain that she has struck out towards them.
This is a book that has made a splash. Some will read it for the gossip or the occasional sally against parts of the government. The wise reader, however, will move rapidly on and read it for what it primarily is: the record of a momentous journey towards peace, and of the life and thoughts of a remarkable woman. · Chris Smith is Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury.