Richard Ingrams's Week: Was Cook sacked on the orders of George Bush?

Share
Related Topics

When he appeared before the Chilcot inquiry on Wednesday, Jack Straw, they said, became the first serving cabinet minister to express "deep regret" about the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the thousands of deaths that resulted.

Not that he was being accused of anything, but his performance and general demeanour reminded me a little of Hitler's armaments minister Albert Speer. He was the only prominent minister to acknowledge his guilt at the Nuremberg trials and who, partly as a result, managed to escape the death penalty which, in the eyes of many people, he deserved just as much as the rest of them.

Straw didn't go as far as Speer when it came to distancing himself from his former leader, though he managed in his slippery way to suggest that he had never approved of Tony Blair's slavish adherence to George W Bush.

The irony which naturally went unnoticed by Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues was that Straw almost certainly owed his position as Foreign Secretary to Bush.

His predecessor, the abrasive Robin Cook, was not liked in Washington, where he had put a number of important backs up, including that of the powerful and sinister former vice-president Dick Cheney.

But it was a surprise to everyone, including Cook himself, when following his election victory in 2002 Blair replaced him with the conciliatory figure of Straw.

Cook, who became Leader of the House, famously resigned over Iraq in 2003. Straw, though sharing many of his misgivings, stayed on. Had Cook still been foreign secretary when he resigned, the whole Iraq venture would have come crashing down, bringing Blair with him. But the Chilcot inquiry won't ask Blair if he sacked Robin Cook because George W Bush asked him to.

Breaking up can break the bank

When I got divorced in 1995 I was taken aback to be sent a bill for £8,000 to cover my ex-wife's costs – even though it was she who had initiated the divorce in the first place. I was told by my lawyers that it was customary for the husband to pay the wife's costs and by that stage, being thoroughly sick to death of lawyers and the law, I made out a cheque simply to be shot of the whole business. I imagine that a great many others in my position have acted in the same way.

It is depressing but not surprising, now that marriage has become a big political issue, that nobody ever mentions divorce.

But if David Cameron and others like him are concerned that so few people nowadays want to get married and that so many who are married want to get divorced, then they ought to forget about things like tax breaks and think for a moment or two about the divorce laws.

Because as things stand, any partner in a marriage can unilaterally decide to walk away from it and still claim entitlement to half the joint efforts of the couple.

As the law traditionally leans in favour of the wife, it is not surprising that the majority of divorces are nowadays instigated by women. But a man can just as easily walk out on his wife and still demand his share of the spoils.

So is it surprising that fewer and fewer people feel inclined to commit to an arrangement which can have such disastrous and unjust consequences when it doesn't work out?

Good riddance to an unwanted, ancient law

As if to prove the truth of Dr Johnson's saying that a corrupt society has many laws, we are told that the Labour government created 4,289 new criminal offences between 1997 and 2009. The offences range in seriousness from causing a nuclear explosion to "disturbing a pack of eggs when directed not to by an authorised officer".

Such is the plethora of new laws that few people will have noticed that one very old law has been abolished. I refer to the ancient offence of criminal libel which was officially done away with when Section 73 of the Coroner's Justice Bill of 2009 came into effect on 12 January.

I have a particular interest in this matter as I believe I was one of the last people to be prosecuted for criminal libel, at the instigation of the late Sir James Goldsmith, in 1975. Prior to that prosecution I could find no evidence of any other more recent case than that of Oscar Wilde's deranged lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, who was found guilty of criminal libel and sent to prison during the First World War after he accused Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, of deliberately losing the battle of Jutland in order to make a killing on the stock exchange.

In 1975, when Goldsmith was given leave to bring his prosecution, cases of criminal libel had become so rare that few lawyers seemed to know anything about it. What distinguished criminal from civil libel was said to be a propensity to cause a breach of the peace, but we never had a chance to test this as Goldsmith eventually dropped his prosecution.

While deploring the retention of the old law, I always thought it a pity that Mohamed al-Fayed was never prosecuted for criminal libel for accusing the Duke of Edinburgh of murdering Princess Diana. As libels go that was about as libellous as it gets. And it might even have led to a breach of the peace.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little