Ministers warned Blair over Iraq

This is the headline in the Independent’s article about the release of a previously secret document by the Iraq Inquiry, in which “Tony Blair was warned there could be ‘long-term damage’ to the armed forces unless Britain slashed its commitment to the Iraq War”.

Just spotted the article, which fully justifies my previous comment about Tony Blair being ‘gung-ho’ on his misuse of our armed Forces.

Nice summary of Gordon Brown at Iraq Inquiry

Stuff to do, people to see, places to go, and so didn’t watch any part of Gordon Brown’s afternoon performance at the Iraq Inquiry. Frankly, I’d lost the will to live in the morning session, mixed with a strong desire to throw things at the TV, for his inability to answer a straightforward question. 

Gordon Brown’s performance is best summed by the mother of a dead soldier who listened through all of his evidence [quotation taken from Paul Waugh’s blog post]:

“To be honest, I found it very hard work because they never seem to answer anything. He goes all around the world and we’re no further forward than we were when we started. It becomes hard work trying to find an answer in his answers – I’m struggling to find some substance in there, and there isn’t any.”

My, that’s being generous to Gordon.

Watching Gordon Brown waffle

Yep, I’m mindlessly watching Gordon Brown waffle his way through his Iraq Inquiry evidence.  Gosh, he sucks energy out of the ether, and depresses the spirit.

There have been some sparky exchanges that have put Gordon Brown on the spot. But then he just carries on talking. Gordon could be our secret weapon to bore to death our enemies. Time for tea now.

Lovely, Iraq is Tony Blair’s groundhog day

The ever excellent Iain Martin in the Wall Street Journal Europe manages to summarise an event and produce a compelling bon mot. This time in his article on Tony Blair’s evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, The Haunting of Tony Blair, which he ends with this:

“And then his evidence was over and he could go home. But it’s never really over. Iraq and the endless inquiries are turning into a kind of groundhog day for Blair. He answers the same questions the same way, nothing new emerges but the sense is that none of it, somehow, is very satisfactory. And so it will go on, and on, and on.”

What a splendid image, Blair and Iraq as his groundhog day.

Tony Blair, a ‘fantastic actor’

I watched a tiny, tiny bit of Tony Blair’s evidence to the Iraq Inquiry this morning. In the bit I saw, he outlined the strategic options in the Middle East, Iran, Iraq etc, just as though he was still Prime Minister. Oh what a smart ploy to take the high ground. Decided not to watch further, as chance for disappointment far too great.

Tony Blair’s performance is wonderfully put into perspective by Armando Iannucci’s comment to Andrew Neil on last night’s This Week programme. Armando said.

“… In 1997 Blair asked to be interviewed by Alan Partridge. Steve Coogan and I went to the Blackpool conference and wrote a little ten minute comedy sketch for Blair and Steve, as Alan Partridge, to perform together. 

We only had ten minutes to look at the script. I was really nervous, because there were so many ways it… he had to get the wording absolutely right. … We went through it.  He looked at Alastair Campbell after each joke, to make sure it was fine.  

He went out and did it absolutely word-perfect. A fantastic actor.”

But we all knew this, didn’t we?

Ooh err, I did enjoy this slap to Jack Straw

It’s an odd relationship we have with our leading politicians. We admire and loathe them in equal measure. For me, one such is Jack Straw. I admire his political survival skills and his trickiness, but it’s that same slippery trickiness that I loathe. Odd isn’t it. 

And so it is with him and the Iraq Inquiry. His performance under questioning by Sir John Chilcot and others had me admiring his ability to absolve himself of blame or responsibility, but also deploring his obfuscation. Odd again, I know. 

The purpose of the Iraq Inquiry, it seems to me, is not to uncover anything new, but to deliver a slap in the face to the Labour high and mighty who took us to war in Iraq. The slaps being delivered with surgical skill by brainy civil servant-types. Oh, the joy they are having at delivering these slaps. None more so than two ex-senior law officers at the Foreign Office yesterday. Notably the exchange with Ms Elizabeth Wilmshurst, where the Inquiry members questioned her about why Jack Straw had rejected the legal advice:

THE CHAIRMAN: Did it make a difference that Jack Straw himself is a qualified lawyer?

MS ELIZABETH WILMSHURST: He is not an international lawyer.

Delicious. Now, for a forensic look at Jack Straw’s role in going to war with Iraq, Paul Waugh’s comment is unbeatable. 

UPDATE: One of my ‘fave’ commentators has said Wood Lights a Fire Under Straw [don’t you just love headlines like this], saying Wood’s comments,” makes Straw look like a slippery old fish.” 

My, my, it better be good Tony

I’m not sure that Tony Blair’s friends should have spoken about his preparations to speak at the Iraq Inquiry this Friday, all they’ve done is to set the bar higher for Tony’s performance. As Rachel Sylvester notes in the last paragraph of her article in today’s Times:

“For weeks Mr Blair has been studying papers, talking to friends writing longhand notes, as he prepares for Friday. He will, says a friend, be “candid and direct”, admitting some mistakes — although he will not concede that it was wrong to go to war. It will, no doubt, be a polished performance. For his critics, though, it will never be enough because their angst is not just about the war in Iraq.”

Truth, lies and Alastair Campbell

It gives me no pleasure to write about Alastair Campbell. But following his appearance at the Iraq Inquiry yesterday I thought it worth providing a collection of press articles about the event. Each in their own way identify Campbell as a villain in the Iraq affair. Some of the words used in these articles include: unscrupulous, brazen, evasive, unrepentant, stubborn arrogance, laddish, bruising, and cocky. Mostly dancing around the big word, liar. 

Now, I can’t leave a review of Alastair Campbell’s mendacious and malign influence on British politics with reprising Michael Howard’s wonderful skewering of him in 2007.

To repeat, I don’t care about Brown and the Iraq Inquiry

Yes, I know the Iraq Inquiry is helping uncover the entrails of the lead up to the Iraq war. Yes, I know it’s what the political commentariat and others love – to see the inner workings of government laid bare.

But, the tricky, and the clever politicians will also find ways of wheedling out of responsibility. It’s what Alistair Campbell did yesterday to the Iraq Inquiry members. This isn’t a judicial inquiry, it’s not even quasi-judicial. It’s just a few retired civil servants doing their duty, investigating, reporting and recommending. Heck, its what they do well.

Do I care whether Gordon Brown appears before the Inquiry before the election? No, a thousand times no. Sure there’s collective cabinet responsibility, but it remains Tony Blair’s war. Please, let’s not applaud Nick Clegg or the LibDems for asking questions that nobody outside Westminster and political hacks gives tuppence about.