Andy McSmith: Delving into evidence of the inner workings of Lord Prescott's mind

Sketch

The Chilcot Inquiry has spent eight months delving into the inner workings of the Government in the run-up to the invasion; yesterday seemed more about the inner workings of Lord Prescott's mind.

To judge by the former deputy prime minister's evidence, he saw the weaknesses in the case for going to war, but was too busy rushing between meetings to attend to small details. He was proud that Tony Blair's Cabinet hardly ever rowed, because they hardly ever discussed anything in Cabinet. Tricky issues were dealt with by committees or "sofa government". Lord Prescott was proud to be "always on the sofa".

He said he did not ask how the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, concluded the war was legal. Nor did he appear to know whether Saddam Hussein's regime was a terrorist threat to the West. "It's an interesting question. I'm not sure I can answer it."

When Lord Prescott is hyped-up, it is well-known his mind works so fast, his syntax cannot keep up and strange things happen to the English language. Yesterday, an "ad hoc committee" became a "haddock committee".

He also described a video-link conversation with Dick Cheney, the US Vice- President, directly after 9/11. "I can recall the meeting because him and the President were being hidden in different parts of the UK," he said, to general astonishment. He added Mr Cheney "was hiding in a cave that was probably more luxurious than bin Laden's".

But there were no regrets. "Since then, with hindsight, we do see that perhaps the thing is they hadn't gone as far as they had done that, that the early stage of dealing with weapons of mass destruction had been effectively dealt with, but at that stage they are saying it's still an active part." Indeed.

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