Alastair Campbell faces the moment of truth

Today could see the Chilcot inquiry's most explosive encounter yet. Michael Savage rehearses the arguments

Alastair Campbell faces potentially explosive questioning today over his role in overstating the reliability of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's weaponry, as he becomes the first major political figure to appear before the Iraq inquiry.

Tony Blair's former Downing Street director of communications is expected to be quizzed over a key claim that it was "beyond doubt" that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), made in a dossier published in September 2002 setting out the Government's case for war.

The assertion appeared in a foreword to the document, which appeared under the name of Mr Blair. However, Mr Campbell has already admitted that he was responsible for drafting it.

Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, has shown a close interest in the claim. Several senior Whitehall figures have told the inquiry that the assertion was made despite the fact that the Prime Minister was warned that intelligence on Saddam's weaponry should be treated with caution.

Critics of Mr Campbell's involvement in building the Government's case for war in Iraq are expecting the former spin doctor to go on the offensive today, a tactic he has deployed in the past. In 2003, he used his appearance before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee to demand an apology from the BBC for its suggestion he exaggerated claims that Saddam had WMD that could be used within 45 minutes.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP who has written a book on the dossier, said key questions on Mr Campbell's role over the dossier must be asked by the committee. "They [Downing Street] replaced all the question marks with exclamation marks," he said. "The whole process of forming the dossier was to make a political case for war."

Senior political figures who formed part of Mr Blair's top team will next week follow Mr Campbell in giving evidence to the inquiry. The former Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, will be called next Tuesday, and the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, next Thursday. Mr Straw will likely be quizzed about a private letter he sent to Mr Blair shortly before the invasion, in which he suggested that the Government should pursue policies short of military action.

David Cameron yesterday appeared to back Mr Blair's claim that military action was needed without the WMD claim. "I voted for it. I haven't gone back on that decision," he said.

Here we lay out six key questions for Alastair Campbell.



Why did you have so much influence over the September dossier?

Controversy has always surrounded his role in formulating the September 2002 dossier on Iraq, which claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within 45 minutes. It is already known that Mr Campbell was at editing meetings for the document and that he suggested 11 separate changes to the draft dossier. Critics maintain that Mr Campbell had too much power over the formation of the dossier, which was overseen – in theory – by the intelligence chief, Sir John Scarlett.



Did you come up with the phrase that Saddam's ownership of WMD was "beyond doubt"? If not, who did?

Sir John Scarlett has already conceded to the inquiry that it may have been more appropriate if the Prime Minister's foreword, that said Saddam's ownership of WMD was "beyond doubt", had not been included. Whitehall figures have suggested that the reliability of the intelligence which formed the basis of the claim was overstated. Mr Campbell drafted the foreword.



Were crucial claims about Iraq's theoretical nuclear capabilities changed to fit statements made by President George Bush?

New accusations have emerged that Mr Campbell asked that one of the claims in the dossier, about Iraq's potential to build nuclear weapons, be altered to match claims made by the Bush administration. Other officials have told the inquiry that a claim that aluminium tubes spotted in Iraq could be used in a nuclear programme was included after US vice president Dick Cheney mentioned them during a television interview.



Why did you pressure senior figures to be more optimistic over war plans?

The former head of Britain's armed forces revealed that he was told by Mr Campbell to be more positive about the Government's plans to invade Iraq. Admiral Lord Boyce raised concerns about keeping war plans a secret from the public, preventing him from ordering crucial equipment. He said Mr Campbell asked him to give a "half-full rather than half-empty assessment" during briefings at No 10. Other senior figures were targeted after raising concerns. Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney-General, is said to have been banned from speaking out by Mr Blair and his closest advisers after informing the Prime Minster that an invasion of Iraq may not be legal.



Why were warnings on delaying the invasion ignored? Why wasn't action taken to improve post-war planning?

Major General Tim Cross, the most senior military figure appointed to help plan the aftermath, returned to London two days before the invasion and told Mr Campbell that reconstruction planning was far from complete. Mr Campbell then brought the Prime Minister to meet Maj Gen Cross, and was present when Maj Gen Cross informed Mr Blair that military action should be delayed.



What concerns did you have about the image of the invasion?

There has been mounting evidence at the inquiry that No 10 obsessed over the media image of the Iraq campaign as one of the most pressing priorities. During his meeting with Maj Gen Cross, Mr Campbell pledged to send reinforcements to improve the media operation of the main post-war planning unit. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was Britain's special representative in Iraq, said Mr Blair ordered him to make improving the media image of the campaign a main priority, alongside boosting security.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week