Occasionally, but just possibly with increasing frequency, the predominantly solipsistic nature of the web gives way to something genuinely communal, by which I mean that it offers something for real world, not online, communities.
The brightest of these projects, in Britain at least, is probably mySociety.org, if you can forgive it the supersmooth name evidently conjured up by a wicked sabbat of scripters and online marketers.
Today mySociety has proudly announced the launch of Downing Street Says. This is the official transcript of Downing Street’s daily lobby briefings (as well as the PM’s press conferences), in blog form.
So now you can check for yourself that Tony really did say both that he cannot comment on Clare Short’s allegations (that the British government possessed illegal transcripts of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s private phone conversations) and simultaneously that ‘we and previous governments have never commented on intelligence except to say that this country always acts in accordance with domestic and international law’.
Apply your mind: the two statements are not necessarily contradictory. It is quite possible for the British government to have legally obtained transcripts which were first obtained illegally by a third party, for instance the CIA. On the other hand, the statement that the security services have not breached international law is no more than an untestable assertion. At what point is it permissible for a third party, such as the UN, to insist on testing such an assertion? Must there be proof of a breach, or can circumstantial evidence suffice?
This is not a totally idle question. No country willingly announces that it has breached international law, yet many countries (not least Iraq) do breach it. What is the quorum for a decision that a sovereign nation can no longer be taken on its bona fides? A UN resolution? A UN security council decision? George and Tony making a joint statement?
If none of this speculation floats your boat, you can still get the official line on Tony Blair’s night on a park bench.