Short relives the day Blair silenced her for criticising the Iraq war

Former PM 'was willing to be deceitful because he thought conflict was right'

Tony Blair was prepared to "deceive" Parliament over Iraq and freeze out opposition within his Government because of his unshakeable belief that it was right to topple Saddam Hussein, a former cabinet minister has said.

Clare Short, who was the International Development Secretary before resigning shortly after the March 2003 invasion, also revealed that she was "jeered" by cabinet colleagues and told to be quiet by Mr Blair when she attempted to dispute the legality of the war. She added that Gordon Brown had complained to her that Mr Blair was "obsessed with his legacy" and was determined to use a short, decisive victory in Iraq to secure it.

In the most ferocious attack on Mr Blair's style of government heard by Sir John Chilcot's inquiry to date, Ms Short said the former Prime Minister had ignored warnings that post-war preparations were not ready because he was "frantic" to give his backing to President Bush. Plans on Iraq were decided by a small group of his "mates", while she was frozen out during the summer of 2002.

"I'm not saying he was insincere," she said. "I think he was willing to be deceitful about it because he thought it was right."

Ms Short, who became the first MP to be given a round of applause after her evidence, told the Iraq Inquiry that Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General who gave the legal green light for military action, misled the Cabinet in doing so. While Lord Goldsmith told the Cabinet on 17 March that the war would be legal, just 10 days earlier he had advised the Prime Minister that while a "reasonable case" could be made for the invasion's legality, he could not guarantee that a court would agree. "I think for the Attorney General to come and say there's unequivocal legal authority to go war was misleading," she said.

She also directly challenged Lord Goldsmith's claim that ministers declined the chance to debate the legality of the war. Ms Short added that Lord Goldsmith had been "leaned on" and excluded from decisions in an attempt to force him to change his mind over the legality of the war, something he has denied.

She said that Mr Blair used "secretiveness and deception" to take Britain to war, while the checks on his power had "broken down quite badly" during his drive to join the US-led invasion. In particular, she said a tactic to "blame the French" for vetoing any further action against Saddam was "a deliberate lie". Ms Short added that France and other UN members may have backed military action at a later date.

"I noticed Tony Blair in his evidence to you kept saying, 'I had to decide, I had to decide.' And indeed that's how he behaved. But that is not meant to be our system of government," she said. "When you add secrecy and deceit the system becomes positively dangerous."

A letter published by the inquiry yesterday showed that Ms Short had warned Mr Blair before the invasion that preparations for the reconstruction of Iraq were not ready and that military action should be delayed. In the correspondence, sent two weeks before the war, she warned of a "possible humanitarian crisis" unless planners were given more time.

She said that the US body overseeing the post-war strategy was "under-staffed, under-resourced and under-prepared for the scale of the challenge" as the war approached. "You should be aware that the US and the international humanitarian community are not properly prepared to deal with the immediate humanitarian concerns," she wrote. "A little more time would make the US much better able to deal with some of the humanitarian consequences of conflict."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee