Untruthful Blair may win, but the storm of scandal is gathering

Share

As we race towards election day, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is ever more clearly exposed for what he really is. Thus far, we have learnt that he is untruthful (see the the Prime Minister's admission that he named Dr David Kelly in the interview last week with Jeremy Paxman on BBC 1). He has no regard for civil liberties (see the anti-terrorism legislation passed in the final days of the last Parliament). He has opened the door to torture of terrorist suspects (see the report by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons published this month).

As we race towards election day, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is ever more clearly exposed for what he really is. Thus far, we have learnt that he is untruthful (see the the Prime Minister's admission that he named Dr David Kelly in the interview last week with Jeremy Paxman on BBC 1). He has no regard for civil liberties (see the anti-terrorism legislation passed in the final days of the last Parliament). He has opened the door to torture of terrorist suspects (see the report by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons published this month).

Today we can see Mr Blair even more clearly than before. For there has arrived much fuller details than we have previously known about the advice of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, on the legality of the Iraq war. It comes by way of a leak to newspapers from an insider who was presumably disgusted by the way the Attorney came to change his mind.

We should not be surprised at this last-minute disclosure. Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, resigned in protest at the Attorney General's final position. Then last November, Sir Stephen Wall, a former foreign policy adviser at 10 Downing Street commented publicly: "We allowed our judgement of the dire consequences of inaction to override our judgements of the even more dire consequences of departing from the rule of law."

This is a story in which chronology is everything. Start with 7 March, 2003. On that day, Lord Goldsmith warned the Prime Minister that going to war could be in breach of international law. It was not for Britain to decide whether Iraq had defied the United Nation's order to disarm. UN resolution 1441 could not bear the weight Mr Blair was placing on it. The UN resolutions that permitted the ejection of Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait did not permit the toppling of the dictator. Why else did the Allies stop at the Iraq border? The weapons inspectors in Iraq were successfully getting on with their task.

10 March. Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of Defence Staff, sought a clearer assurance of the war's legality, which says something about the 7 March memorandum. "I asked for unequivocal advice that what we were proposing to do was lawful," he subsequently explained. His concerns were transmitted to the Attorney General through the Prime Minister. Sir Michael said he was "reassured I would get what I asked for".

13 March. Lord Goldsmith met Baroness Morgan from 10 Downing Street and Lord Falconer, then a Home Office minister, both of them close colleagues of Mr Blair. There the Attorney communicated his "clearer" views that it was lawful to use force without another resolution.

14 March. Sir Michael Boyce received his reassurance.

15 March. The Prime Minister confirmed in writing "unequivocally [his] view that Iraq had committed further material breaches" of Security Council resolutions.

17 March. In reply to a question in the House of Lords, Lord Goldsmith provided a 337-word written reply which states that "authority to use force against Iraq exists from the combined effect of Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441".

17 March. At a cabinet meeting, ministers were provided with the House of Lords statement and nothing else. Contrary to the Ministerial Code of Conduct, which requires the full text of any legal advice to be made available, no other papers were provided.

Lord Goldsmith must know that unless he corrects this version of events, he would look very weak and his reputation would sink very low. He must see that unless he can show the newspapers' account of his 7 March advice is wrong, or that he learnt something significant between 7 March and 17 March sufficient to justify a change of mind, he would be politically and professionally ruined.

What, though, does all this say about the Prime Minister? I am beginning to wonder whether we should add a further charge to his sheet, that he persuaded Parliament to approve the invasion of Iraq by what were essentially fraudulent means. We already know the Prime Minister, in his speech to the House of Commons, failed to disclose the strong advice he had received from the Joint Intelligence Committee warning him that "there was no intelligence that Iraq had provided chemical or biological materials to al-Qa'ida or of Iraqi intentions to conduct chemical or biological attacks using Iraqi intelligence officers or their agents". Add to that the failure to provide the Cabinet with the full advice from the Attorney General. What does all this add up to? Is it not beginning to look like the worst scandal in British public life for a very long time? The chances are that Mr Blair will win the election and remain as Prime Minister. But he should not suppose disquiet about the means by which he governs is going to subside. On the contrary, the storm will continue to gather. When it eventually bursts, much will be washed away.

Dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction

Tony Blair said: "[It] discloses that his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them."

In July last year Mr Blair said: "As the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy."

The naming of David Kelly

Mr Blair denied authorising the naming of government weapons expert Dr David Kelly. In July 2003 he insisted: "I did not authorise the leaking of [his name]." During the Hutton inquiry Mr Blair defended the decision to confirm his name. Asked last week whether he felt responsibility for his death, Mr Blair replied: "I don't believe we had any option but to disclose his name."

The al-Qa'ida threat

Last month, Tony Blair claimed there were hundreds of potential terrorists in Britain. Pushing new anti-terror laws through the Commons, he said: "There are several hundred of them in this country ... engaged in plotting or trying to commit terrorist acts." Charles Clarke, Home Secretary, said last week only a "tiny number of people" represented a terrorist threat.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, Britain’s largest Immigration Removal Centre  

Thanks to Channel 4 we now see just how appallingly Yarl’s Wood detention centre shames Britain

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
 

If I were Prime Minister: I’d ensure ministers took mental health in the armed forces as seriously as they take physical wounds

James Jones
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003