Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tony Blair pushed Gordon Brown to hold Iraq war inquiry in private.

The Observer is reporting this morning that Tony Blair pressured Gordon Brown into holding the Iraq war inquiry in private as he feared that he would be subjected to a "show trial" were the inquiry to be held in public.

The revelation that the former prime minister - who led Britain to war in March 2003 - had intervened will fuel the anger of MPs, peers, military leaders and former civil servants, who were appalled by Brown's decision last week to order the investigation to be conducted behind closed doors.

Blair, who resisted pressure for a full public inquiry while he was prime minister, appears to have taken a deliberate decision not to express his view in person to Brown because he feared it might leak out.

Instead, messages on the issue were relayed through others to Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, who conveyed them to the prime minister in the days leading up to the announcement of the inquiry last week.

A Downing Street spokesman last night said: "We have always been clear that we consulted a number of people before announcing the commencement of the inquiry, including former government figures. We are not going to get into the nature of those discussions."
So, there is no denial from Downing Street, only an admission that they consulted with "former government figures", which would almost certainly include Blair and his allies.

Blair had much to fear from being questioned in public and under oath about the decision to take this country to war. From the Downing Street memos to the Attorney Generals abrupt change of heart over the legality of the conflict, there is much that Blair would feel uncomfortable discussing in public.

The truth is that he made the decision to go to war and then set out to find evidence that would back that decision. The entire process was conducted back to front, it was the complete opposite of how one would like a country to approach such an important decision.
Last night, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, whose party opposed the war from the outset, said: "If this is true about Blair demanding secrecy, it is outrageous that an inquiry into the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez is being muzzled to suit the individual needs of the man who took us to war."
I was outraged that Brown would even attempt to conduct any inquiry into this war in private, it simply didn't occur to me that he would be doing so to suit the needs of Blair, a man who was his nemesis for such a long time.

Last night, Brown appeared cornered as MPs of all parties prepared for a Commons debate on Wednesday in which they look certain to back calls for the inquiry to hold sessions in public "whenever possible".

A Tory motion likely to win wide cross-party backing also calls for the committee to include military experts. The Lib Dems are demanding that it also include constitutional and legal experts to assess the legality of the invasion.

In a sign that the government is preparing to retreat, Chilcot is to meet both Clegg and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, on Tuesday, before the debate. MPs believe that he may then announce a bigger public element to the inquiry in order to avoid the humiliation for Brown of defeat in the Commons.

I don't understand why Brown is going to such lengths to cover for Blair's crimes, unless he believes that Labour will ultimately pay the price for Blair's actions.

But what Brown is ignoring here is that it is largely Labour supporters who feel most betrayed over what Blair did.

We want the truth to come out and we don't care where the chips fall. At stake is the principle that we don't send young - mostly working class - men and women to war unless it is absolutely necessary. I'd rather Labour lose the next election and have that principle established than Labour win and Blair's crimes go unpunished.

Brown needs to do what's right, not what he thinks might win him the next election. That's the way, oddly enough, to excite and invigorate the Labour base.

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