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Mark Steel

Mark Steel: Why not hold all trials in private?

They'd have put Cherie Blair on the inquiry, only she'd have charged a fee

I'd love to have spent the last couple of days with Tony Blair or Alastair Campbell. Because at some point they're sure to have said, "There's a million people on the streets against a lying and warmongering, government. Surely now they have to take notice."

It's unlikely anything so interesting will come out of the inquiry into the Iraq war announced by Gordon Brown. Because it will be held entirely in secret, and is not allowed to "apportion blame", as this will prevent the inquiry being "clogged up by expensive lawyers."

Apparently this will encourage those called to be "more candid" about their behaviour. So why not change the whole legal system for similar reasons? Murderers would be so much more candid in a trial if they weren't weighed down by the thought of their comments being made public. "Between you and me I strangled the lot of them," they'd laugh, whereas once they're in that big room with lawyers and blame getting in the way they're BOUND to clam up.

How much quicker the law could be resolved without all that paraphernalia of cross-examining and working out who was telling the truth and other money-wasting nonsense. Just ask someone whether they did it, and if they say "Not really," or "I had to kill them because I'd heard they had some destructive weapons," the judge could say "Well that's pretty much cleared it up – who's next?"

And what a liberal turn Gordon Brown's taken with this "refusal to blame" attitude. He must have been listening to a radical parenting workshop in a field in Devon, so those responsible will be told, "OK – I'm hearing negative thought-lines resulting from imaginary-weapons-of-destruction-syndrome yeah, but I don't want you to feel blame for all the deaths OK, instead I want you to digest an alternative activity strategy of public speaking and praying so as not to stifle your creativity yeah."

In an effort to represent the expertise of many layers of society, the team running the inquiry has been drawn from a wide cross-section of knights. (To be fair only four out of the five in the team are knights. The other is a baroness, because New Labour stands by its slogan, "For the many not the few").

They're not even neutral knights, because Sir Lawrence Freedman wrote a memo on which Blair based a speech proposing war, and Sir Martin Gilbert has already said Blair and Bush may be seen as "akin to Roosevelt and Churchill." So why are they bothering to have an inquiry at all? It would make more sense to have a dinner party. Then they could release its conclusions that: 1) There was little alternative to war; 2) The recession is creating some wonderful opportunities for property in Italy; and 3) Sir John and Sir Roderic both knew the same masters at Eton, isn't that amazing?

They'd probably have put Tony and Cherie Blair on the inquiry team, except that Cherie would have charged an appearance fee and it would end up costing more than all the lawyers.

One minister defended the war yesterday by boasting that the levels of violence in Iraq are now at their lowest since 2003. So after six years and a million dead the place is finally back to the level of violence that existed before the invasion happened. But it's justified because one of the dead was Saddam, although with this new system of secrecy and disastrous wars for which no one in the government is to blame, if he was still around they'd be after him for advice.