Iraq inquiry deadlock leaves Labour fearing report ahead of 2015 election

 

Political Correspondent

Labour faces the prospect of seeing Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry published in the year of the election, which Lord Mandelson has warned would be a “very difficult minefield” for Ed Miliband.

The political tug-of-war over classified documents is now so entrenched that the earliest publication date for the £9m inquiry has spilled over into 2015, The Independent has learnt.

The increasing prospect of the report on Iraq, six years after it was ordered, being published in the period before official campaigning begins ahead of next May’s general election is unnerving key advisers to the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

The Independent has been told that discussions between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office remain deadlocked, and a year-long stand-off is now unlikely to be resolved before the current parliamentary session ends. Even if a deal were reached over the summer recess, legal protocols and procedures would push the Iraq report’s publication into the spring of next year.

Last year, Lord Mandelson, a leading figure in the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, warned that the Chilcot report would be a “very difficult minefield” for Mr Miliband to navigate his way through. He accepted the Iraq war remained a “very sensitive issue” for many in the Labour Party.

That concern has multiplied with the forecast of further delay for the report’s publication. Claims that a “compromise agreement” had been reached have proved to be mere optimism.

A spokesman for the Chilcot inquiry confirmed that progress on disclosure and discussions aimed at declassifying “sensitive categories of material” remained stalled. He also confirmed that the “Maxwellisation phase” had yet to begin.

The former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ming Campbell, said the inquiry is now “truly in limbo” and warned that it could become “a political pawn” in the run-up to the 2015 general election. “If the inquiry has now stalled it does no one any good,” he said.

Sir John warned David Cameron last November that it was “regrettable” that a deal could not be agreed with the Cabinet Office on the disclosure of communications sent in 2002 and 2003 between Mr Blair and the US President at the time of the Iraq war, George W Bush.

The Prime Minister replied to Sir John saying he hoped the difficulties would be “concluded as soon as possible”.

Despite Downing Street’s November 2013 optimism, not one letter has so far been sent out by the inquiry as part of the “Maxwellisation” process, the legal requirement to notify individuals who are criticised in a government-ordered report.

Mr Blair has been sent no detail from the inquiry on its contents and how he is portrayed. The former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, and Mr Blair’s former communications chief, Alastair Campbell – who are all expected to have central roles in the report’s narrative – have been sent no information on what the report says about them.

A leading Labour figure, who will be among Mr Miliband’s closest confidants at the election, told The Independent the party would not want the “hurt and trauma” of Iraq to be revisited close to an election. He said the report held the potential to “remind the electorate of what went wrong” and the “fiasco on our watch that left a prime minister discredited”.

However, he accepted that a counter-view existed inside Labour’s higher ranks which claimed Mr Miliband could use Chilcot to “disown previous Labour administrations”.

The impasse between Sir John and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, is over demands by the inquiry that 2002-03 communications between Tony Blair, who was then in No 10, and Mr Bush, who was then in the White House, be declassified and published, unredacted, in the final report.

Sir John is understood to agree with his inquiry team that a report that does not include the Bush-Blair exchanges “would lack credibility”. Sources close to Sir John and his four colleagues say they now regard the Cabinet Office’s attitude towards to their requests as “ridiculous and intransigent”.

Last year The Independent revealed that early drafts of the inquiry report had authoritatively challenged “previous accounts of what happened” in 2002 and 2003, when Mr Blair sent 45,000 British troops into Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Chilcot inquiry has had full unfettered access to all government papers. The Cabinet Office has been in a constructive dialogue with the inquiry team over recent months, with a clear view to meeting their declassification requests. That process should be concluded shortly.”

Timeline: Chilcot inquiry

June 2009 Gordon Brown announces an inquiry.

July 2009 Sir John Chilcot launches the inquiry as its chair, to consider the period from 2001 to the end of 2009.

January-February 2011 The inquiry holds its final round of public hearings.

March 2013 The Independent reveals that early drafts of the report “challenge previous accounts of what happened” in the run-in to the 2003 war.

June 2013 New forecast date for the inquiry’s “Maxwellisation” process to begin.

November 2013 Sir John tells David Cameron it is “regrettable” that the Government and his inquiry have failed to agree on the disclosure of “difficult categories of documents”.

April 2014 Inquiry admits that the Maxwellisation has yet to start.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference