Chilcot will wag a long bony finger at Labour, but his report may miss the general election

by Kevin Meagher

Like scorpions, official inquiries are unpredictable, require careful handling and invariably come with a sting in the tail.

The news that Sir John Chilcot’s much-anticipated Iraq inquiry will not now report until at least next year causes Labour some obvious difficulties. Clearly, reminiscing about why the country went to war at the start of the general election campaign wouldn’t be much fun.

Then there’s the question of how all those fickle Lib Dem switchers Labour is relying on will react when the report finds fault – as surely it will – in the case made for war and its subsequent prosecution.

Before the last election, the timing of Lord Justice Saville’s inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings was a cause of similar consternation after officials in the Northern Ireland Office realised that his mammoth report would have to be stored while Parliament was prorogued during the election campaign.

The families of the victims were not happy at the thought of ministers or officials having access to it during the interregnum, preparing their defences or leaking extracts to the newspapers.

In the end, the matter was resolved, but Saville was fiercely protective of his independence, (as, it seems, is Sir John Chilcot) making him difficult to predict. Officials in the Northern Ireland Office used to ask, only half-jokingly, whether Saville actually existed as no-one seemed to have any day-to-day contact with him.

All of which is to caution that just because Chilcot has gone quiet it doesn’t mean his findings will be any less dramatic. Little is emerging to fuel the rumour mill, however this is the last – and seemingly most thorough – attempt to divine the circumstances that led to the Iraq War, looking at “the way decisions were made and actions taken…and to identify the lessons that can be learned.

It’s an open invitation to wag a long, bony finger.

Yet there are apparently those in his entourage who spy a chance for Ed Miliband to use a damning verdict as an opportunity to ‘disown’ the Blair/Brown era. Yeah, right. You hang together in this game.

Anyway, apprehension in Labour HQ may be misplaced. The issue of contention with Chilcot appears to be a reluctance by the Cabinet Office to sanction the release of classified information, including communications between Tony Blair and George Bush. Whitehall has countless bags of sand it can pour into the gear-box.

Then there’s the so-called “Maxwellisation” process to get through, with key witnesses like Tony Blair and Jack Straw not yet having had the chance to review the parts of the report referring to them.

Who would bet against the final report sailing blissfully beyond May 2015?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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3 Responses to “Chilcot will wag a long bony finger at Labour, but his report may miss the general election”

  1. Robert says:

    I am not sure that it makes much difference when Chilcott reports. Most people made their mind up about Iraq years ago and Miliband rightly apologised as soon as he was elected leader.

  2. swatantra says:

    Not guilty M’Lud. You can bet on it being a complete whitewash. Tony is adament that he did the right thing. They don’t call him Teflon Tone for nothing.

  3. Tafia says:

    It makes little difference. The fact that Blair is still a member of the Labour Party despite standing before Parliament and deliberately lying, along with the fact that Labour ore considering taking a very large donation from Blair means that Labour have still not shown any remorse and not made any effort to distance themselves from what he did and what it caused and led to.

    You can judge a man by the company he keeps also applies as you can judge a party by the company it keeps.

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