An inquiry that appeared as toothless as the establishment figures that comprise it nonetheless threatens to propel the architect of New Labour into the realms of the 2007 Channel 4 drama The Trial of Tony Blair, in which the war crimes of the ex-prime minister catch up with him.
Of course, we are a long way from seeing Blair on trial at the Hague. We are even quite a way from seeing any conclusions from the inquiry, which goes on hold ahead of the general election once – and if – Gordon Brown appears.
There remains little reason to expect anything more than a whitewash.
The questioning has been anodyne and the disclosures small. It has been the desire of those formerly around Blair to distance themselves from the invasion that has provided the substance.
Sir John Chilcot was chosen as the archetypal safe pair of hands – a former Whitehall mandarin who spent seven years as head of the Northern Ireland office, where there is much to keep under the carpet, he served three home secretaries and was a “staff counsellor” for the security and intelligence agencies.
The problem for Blair is that so many of his own class – alarmed at the continuing public anger over the war – want to finger him. So former foreign secretary, now justice secretary, Jack Straw now says he had a secret plan to avoid the invasion and considered resigning. Meanwhile, then defence secretary Geoff Hoon claims to have known little about what was going on.
Blair should still be able to rely on the Tories, of course, who remain deeply compromised by their support over Iraq. A Cameron government is unlikely to want to pursue Blair unless it becomes imperative to nail him to draw public fire from all those responsible. It is up to our side to keep up the pressure.
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