A Bad Lib Dem Reshuffle

John Rentoul
clegg getty 300x225 A Bad Lib Dem Reshuffle

(Getty Images)

Michael Moore, the Man Who Saved the Union, has been sacked as Scottish Secretary. Jeremy Browne, a Blairite reformer, has been sacked from the Home Office. Not only that, but he has been replaced by Norman Baker, a conspiracy theorist who thinks David Kelly was murdered and who thought that Robin Cook’s death was suspicious, although he tried to dismiss this as a “flippant comment” (see below).

And still no Lib Dem woman in the Cabinet.

A bad day for Nick Clegg.

I reproduce below a blog post from 2009 on Norman Baker.

Norman Baker MP: An Apology

Posted by John Rentoul

  • Sunday, 15 February 2009 at 10:56 pm

I recently wrote that I had been wrong to say that Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat conspiracy theorist, believed that Robin Cook had been murdered.

Baker was quoted in his local newspaper, The Argus, as saying: “Robin Cook was on Ministry of Defence land, I believe, when he died and certainly I have doubts over what happened.” (A remark spotted by the redoubtable Oliver Kamm.)

But Baker contacted me to say: ”I have never said that I think Robin Cook was murdered and have no reason to think he was.” The words attributed to him arose from a “flippant comment”, he said.

I was relieved to accept the correction. Believing that David Kelly was killed – a subject on which Baker has written a book – is potty enough, but I was happy to demote Baker to the ranks of the merely daft from those of the unhinged.

I now accept that this assessment was too generous.

It turns out that Baker does think that Cook’s death was suspicious after all.

One of the commenters on my original post asked me whether I had read Baker’s book. I apologise to “antonyhook” for not replying at the time, but my answer is: “Of course not – I value the time that I have left on the planet.”

However, I know a man who has. David Aaronovitch has written a fabulous book about conspiracy theories and how and why people believe in them, called Voodoo Histories, to be published in May. In it, he quotes from Baker’s book.

Baker cites an article Cook wrote in The Guardian that was critical of the information given to the public in the run-up to the Iraq war, and then writes: “Mr Cook died suddenly shortly afterwards, on Saturday 6 August 2005, while out walking in the Scottish highlands.” (The Strange Death of David Kelly, p110.) Aaronovitch points out that the “shortly afterwards” here is a period of 11 months, but the point is that Baker appears to believe that the two things are connected, otherwise why mention Cook’s death?

In any case, I don’t know why I thought that belief in one conspiracy theory rather than two made Baker more sensible. Just because Melanie Phillips and Peter Oborne* also think that Kelly was murdered hardly lends the idea credibility. Aaronovitch’s book provides the full de-bunk.

I revert to my original view, that Baker’s views on no subject, including transport, for which he is the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman, should be taken seriously.

* Update: Peter Oborne objects to this summary of his views. He says that many aspects of Kelly’s death were suspicious, but that he “may, of course”, have committed suicide. Presumably he also thinks that he may, of course, have been murdered. I disagree.

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  • reformist lickspittle

    Jeremy Browne – “Blairite”??

    Hell, even *I* don’t think Mr Tony is *that* right wing :)

  • Kippers

    Mr Rentoul, are you saying that you know exactly how David Kelly died, the route of his walk the afternoon before his body was found, who first found the body, whether it was lying down or against the tree and why he took his own life?

    I don’t actually think that the death of David Kelly is important in the grand scheme of things but I do wonder why you think anyone pondering some of the stranger aspects of this story is a nutter. If you know the whole story, I think you should write a book about it.

  • newfriendofed

    The dust has not settled yet but I think the more important news is that Osborne is getting more of his ‘people’ in place. Makes me think that if Cameron loses the election and resigns (not impossible given his rather insouciant persona) Tories shaping up for a close leadership battle between the man who thinks he is competent and the man who thinks he is funny although I guess Theresa May would be a quite formidable candidate as well.

  • bugedone

    Putting a pinko whackjob in the Home Office might be the most inspired decision of Clegg’s otherwise ignoble career. Odd that Browne was sacked though I thought he’d done rather well, unless he is being released to invest his time in retaining to his crucial swing seat in Taunton.

  • chrishaines47

    Dr Kelly was killed by plod/the goons in Whitehall. Great to see Miliband waking up and smelling the cawfee – Blair consigned to the trash can of history. Now about Human Rights…

  • Simon Delancey

    Theresa May is definitely the best man for the job :)

  • Simon Delancey

    You’ve got it totally wrong – it seems to be people who know nothing of the story and are happy to make stuff up write the most books about it! Of course, if I were into the paranoid-schizophrenic approach to the world I might argue that they were concocting their fantastical conspiracy theories at the behest of their masters to obfuscate the truth, but that would be just crazy…. or would it?!?

  • Kippers

    Who has written a book about the death of David Kelly with made-up stuff in it?

  • Pingback: A reply to Peter Oborne | John Rentoul | Independent Eagle Eye Blogs

  • porkfright

    You can think what you like, Mr. Rentoul. Fortunately so can the rest of us.

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