The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

House of Commons committee takes Iraq evidence: no smoking gun yet...

This morning, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee received the comments of two noted (and recently departed) members of Tony Blair's Cabinet: Robin Cook (who resigned over the decision to invade Iraq) and Claire Short (who everyone thought who do so, but didn't [1]).

A transcript of proceedings make take several days to emerge onto the Committee's site - to judge from earlier hearings. But there is this blow-by-blow from the BBC, which is not without interest.

For instance, it says that
Mr Cook could not recall the "dodgy dossier" produced in February this year being discussed by Tony Blair's cabinet.
Which frankly strains credibility to the breaking-point and beyond. If a guy as far out of the loop as me could have gone to town on the wretched paper (February archives passim), I'm pretty sure that Cook knew all about it. Why lie? The full transcript will no doubt clarify.

Short goes further than Cook in alleging that
Blair had struck a deal with US President George Bush last summer to go to war in Spring 2003.

She said that
three "extremely senior figures" in Whitehall had told her that Mr Blair had agreed to go to war in mid-February, something later extended to mid-March.

I can't detect anything really new in the summary. And, from the reaction on TV and radio, none of the hacks thought we were much further towards finding anything that would winkle Blair out of Number Ten.

Of course, the classic would be a leak. My guess is that Blair would have written stuff he ought not to have done. (Even if just a scribbled marginal comment on someone else's work.) But no one's going to waste that sort of ammunition - Blair has evaded so many earlier challenges to his regime's credibility (Ecclestone, Mandelson/Robinson, Hinduja, Jo Moore, etc, etc).

The tide in the affairs of men must be taken at the flood - no earlier, no later: the man who would find such a leak most interesting [2] - heir apparent and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown - is a guy amply suited by temperament to holding fire until he sees the whites of his enemies' eyes. And I don't think he's ready to make his move yet.

I'm not expecting anything much from the Foreign Affairs Committee - Blair and Number 10 staff won't be giving evidence, and the pol in charge - Donald Anderson - is (to judge from the TV appearances where he's evidently put up to speak for HMG) not as independent as all that.

We'll see...

  1. March archives passim - work back from March 14 piece. She did resign - but long after the invasion!

  2. If you (civil servant, hack or whatever) had the smoking gun in your possession, you'd want to make it available to the man to whom it would be most beneficial. He's the guy who'll pay the best price - not in cash, most probably, but providing opportunities for personal advancement. Once he's safely esconced in Number 10, of course.

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