The Lib Dems are, I'm afraid, correct about the need for a public inquiry into BAE's allegedly corrupt arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Though governments are usually pretty strict in setting the terms of reference for these things (the Hutton Inquiry, for one), the debate would surely quickly move on to role of the attorney-general.
The government's draft constitutional reform bill is extremely timid on this. The hope that Gordon Brown would do something radical, like denying a political appointee the power to halt fraud investigations, has foundered. In fact, such powers might even be strengthened - the draft bill proposes that the attorney-general be able to snuff out prosecutions on national security grounds.
But didn't Tony Blair more or less admit to taking the decision to halt the BAE prosecution? This, as the former attorney-general Lord Lyell pointed out on the Today programme this morning, was unconstitutional. It was Goldsmith's job to offer 'advice' to the rather anaemic head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Robert Wardle. But let's face it, such quaint notions as constitutional propriety probably weren't at the forefront of the three men's minds at the time.
You could argue that this is the beauty of the British system. The PM or a politically-minded law officer can intervene in due process to protect us from terrorism, or to allow us to sell £4bn worth of warplanes to the Saudis. This what certainly the 'realist' tack taken by the Daily Telegraph this morning, in keeping with its view that the charges be dropped in the first place.
You could argue that, but that would put you squarely in agreement with the likes of Jonathan Aitken and the late Alan Clark. If Gordon Brown's promised 'new kind of politics' is not going to be looked back on with derision, he should act to ensure much greater accountability and openness around government decisions taken 'in the national interest' - as well as defining what the latter actually means.
A public inquiry would be an ideal place to start. Denis Macshane, also on Today, implied that the primacy of parliament was being ignored and that it should debate the decision after recess. Talk about a monumental red herring. The House of Commons did, after all, debate and pass - with a majority of 244 - the relevant anti-corruption legislation in 2001.
Parliament could hardly be described as a highly challenging scrutineer of the government. The problem with the British system, as any half-decent politics student knows, is the lack of rival centres of power to central government. The courts are one of the few exceptions to this. Hence the periodic Blunkett-like moanings from politicians about their decisions. To allow parliament - subject as is it is to a government majority - to determine which legal judgments can be overridden 'in the national interest' would be an act Robert Mugabe would be proud of.