Steve Richards: Brown was in his element buried in detail of policy


Related Topics

Gordon Brown's appearance in front of the Iraq Inquiry confirmed what we already knew. Brown supported the war. If he had opposed it, he would have prevented Tony Blair from going ahead. As Chancellor, Brown worked round the clock during Labour's second term to block any major policy initiative from No 10 which he did not support.

He made sure Blair's original chaotically anarchic plans for foundation hospitals were revised. He blocked Blair's attempts to revive the debate on joining the euro and almost defeated the introduction of top-up fees for university students. He made no move to prevent Blair going to war.

As he told the inquiry, he had several private briefings on the pre-war intelligence, more than the rest of the Cabinet, on the wrong assumption that he would be prime minister soon after the war. Like Blair, he chose to believe the intelligence, although in effect he admitted to the inquiry that both of them read too much into these erratic surveys. Yesterday Brown was never going to distance himself from the actual decision, partly because he could not do so without looking pathetically weak, but also, at the time at least, he genuinely supported the war.

He told the inquiry he did not know about the letters Blair had written to President Bush in which the Prime Minister appeared to make sweeping commitments well in advance. Jack Straw and Alastair Campbell had known about them. I have no doubt Brown was telling the truth. Although he supported the war he did so at a distance. His relationship with Blair at the time was dire. Blair would not have wanted to involve Brown too much in every detail, policy terrain over which he strode without much interference from the Treasury. Then, Brown was so preoccupied with domestic battles that he had no wish to be engaged in every twist and turn in the build-up to war in Iraq.

The area where Brown was potentially vulnerable was over defence spending, his direct responsibility. The inquiry did not lay a glove on him. In retrospect, it was never going to. Brown is always confident when dealing with statistics and he came armed with several to show that defence spending had risen. He acknowledged the rise was not as much as defence chiefs had wanted but that "was always the case with every department in a public spending round". There were times when Brown sought to shift the blame: His job was to raise the money. It was up to others to ensure the cash was spent on the right military equipment. Some defence chiefs are convinced of his culpability at least in terms of adequate provision but, like all public-spending rows, this is an argument without decisive resolution. A Chancellor makes his case. They make theirs.

Brown appeared untroubled throughout. In some ways this was his perfect forum, intense discussion about detailed policy for five hours accompanied by polite questioning. The exchanges will not help him politically, but he might have tripped up badly. He did not do so.

Iraq continues to make an impact on the way the Blair/ Brown era is perceived, not least by disillusioned Labour voters. But Brown's appearance yesterday will have no impact on the election either way. That is the best he could have hoped for.

React Now

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

IT Support Technician (2nd Line / Server Support) - Bedford

£24000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: 2nd line IT Support Techn...


£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified science t...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: Ed Miliband on low pay; Alan Johnson on Betjeman; Tom Freeman on editing

John Rentoul
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments