Cherie: Iraq was a close call – whatever Tony said

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Cherie Blair has reopened the row over her husband's commitment to the decision to go to war in Iraq, with a public observation that it was a "51-49" decision.

A day after Tony Blair was told that he had "blood on his hands" by a father who lost his son at the start of the campaign in 2003, Mrs Blair undermined the former prime minister's argument for toppling Saddam Hussein by suggesting his support for the invasion was not an obvious decision. "A lot of the time these choices are not clear-cut. They are not black and white," she told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. "Instead of being 80-20, many of them are actually more like 51-49. When taking those decisions, Tony is able to step back, absorb all the information and then choose."

However, she added: "He is also very good at then convincing everybody else that it was a 70-30 decision all along. I think it [the Iraq war] was one of those 51-49 questions."

The contribution is the latest in a series of displays of candour from Mrs Blair.

In 2002 she had to apologise following what appeared to be a defence of Palestinian suicide bombers, just hours after 19 Israelis died in a suicide bomb attack. She later signed a copy of the Hutton report into the death of the government scientist David Kelly for auction at a Labour fundraising event.

One of the most memorable blunders came during Gordon Brown's speech at the Labour conference in 2006, when she snorted "Well, that's a lie" in response to his praise of Mr Blair, as she passed a TV monitor outside the conference hall.

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