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

Analysis

Share
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

Recruitment Genius: Infrastructure Architect

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Infrastructure Architect is ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Coordinator

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Production Coordinator is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opening has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would make sure rich people paid to live here

Bonnie Greer
 

The majority of sex workers enjoy their job - why should we find that surprising?

Alex Bryce
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
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