Tony Blair planned to use a quick victory in Iraq to stamp his authority on the Government and remove Gordon Brown from the Treasury, a former Cabinet minister said yesterday.
Clare Short, the former International Development Secretary who resigned following the invasion, said Mr Brown was frozen out of plans for the Iraq war and took no view on the decision to send in troops. Contrary to evidence given to the Iraq inquiry by Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's former director of communications, she said Mr Brown was not part of Mr Blair's inner circle of advisers on Iraq.
Ms Short, who will give evidence to the inquiry tomorrow, said Mr Brown passed no comment about the conflict in Cabinet meetings as he had been "marginalised" on the war. She revealed Mr Brown would have made a dramatic exit from the Government had Mr Blair used a quick victory over Saddam Hussein to remove him from the Treasury.
"In most of the run-up to the war Gordon and Tony were in one of their fallen-out phases and Gordon was marginalised and not included and not in the inner group," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. "He was saying to me, 'They think they are going to have a quick successful war and then they will be very powerful and then they will have a reshuffle'. He thought they wanted him out of the Treasury, and they were going to offer him the Foreign Office and he was saying, 'I won't accept it, I'll join you on the backbenches'."
Ms Short, now an independent MP, added it was "ludicrous" of Mr Blair to claim action was needed against Saddam following the 9/11 terror attacks. "He never argued that at the time," she said. "There was no link of any kind – as everybody knows who is serious – between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida, so there was no such threat."