The Hutton inquiry into the death of the scientist David Kelly begins today. The judge is an independent, honourable man and for the family and friends of Dr Kelly this is obviously an essential process that will hopefully nail the people,who they say hounded Dr Kelly to commit suicide. But for me and almost everyone I know - Black, Asian, Muslim and white Britons - this is not the story nor the inquiry that will give us the answers to the questions we seek. Quite the opposite in fact. The investigation that may result in high-profile resignations will be used only to keep Tony Blair in the life he and his wife have grown to love rather too well.
And as a strategy it will probably work. If Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, falls on his sword and Alastair Campbell, Blair's director of communications, goes off to earn a fortune, the nation will be placated and we will have a good many more years of Tony Blair, the man who always believes that all that he does is right and his right to do, the man who has got us into the mess we are in today - the UK is the third most despised country in the world after the US and Israel - and who announced recently that his appetite for power remains undiminished.
Something is rotten again in the state of Britain, and this time it is a Labour Prime Minister, the willing inheritor of so much of the mantle of Margaret Thatcher who is responsible.
This is why I have only limited interest in this inquiry and why I am exploding with frustration at the current discourse on the war, at the BBC, at the spin doctors smiling wryly in photographs instead of hiding their heads under thick grey blankets in shame, at the pleasing and appeasing language that allows New Labour to believe it can still get away with anything simply because it got rid of the Tories in 1997.
On Saturday morning when I appeared on the Adrian Childs programme on Radio Five, my exasperation burst through the humbug, dissembling, pietism, expediency, jockeying, sheer Machiavellianism that allows this rot to grow. I think the presenters were a bit shocked. I said that the Prime Minister had deliberately told the nation half-truths and untruths when it came to the war in Iraq and that he had, without our consent, yielded our sovereignty to the will of a warmongering Republican government in Washington.
I could blame the heat, but that's not it. Even now, when I have lived here for more than 30 years, I find it impossible to understand, let alone play, the obfuscating game of British politics: that gentlemanly pursuit of lobby journalists and think-tank wonks and insider gurus who know just how far they should go, in their own interests, in criticising the government. Otherwise, presumably, they would be flung into some bog to sink far away from the centre, never again to share a pricey meal in those discreet places where the off-the-record conversations happen.
Why do these cosy briefings take place? Is it because governments in good democracies really believe in the need for a well-informed fourth estate? Of course not. It is because the chosen ones - the majority of them white men, with now a handful of trusted women - can be depended on not to rock the boat in case they all sink. The most recent press conference held by the Prime Minster for various domestic and foreign correspondents, with all that mirth and flirty chatter, was a perfect example of that intimate little world. With so much going on, how dare any of the journalists succumb to summertime bonhomie? There are exceptions, of course, and on this occasion one or two journalists did seem to want to question Blair much more sharply, but they were lost amid the noise of merriment.
One senses, too, that Blair is still regarded with a degree of awe. "Are you suggesting that Blair, a man of such integrity and obvious religious belief, could actually have lied?" I am frequently asked, by many who don't agree with the war but still prefer to believe that the Prime Minister genuinely believed and still believes the bilge he comes out with. And boy Blair does sincerity like no other, which is why the Americans like him to be forever on side. It plays particularly well in that sentimental country. But just because a politician says he is on the level and ardently uses the words "absolutely sure" many, many times, is no reason necessarily to believe him.
How much more evidence does this nation need that Blair backed the war because America wanted it and the occupation? We have had two former cabinet ministers - Clare Short and Robin Cook - saying that there was no justification for the actions we took, particularly as that meant sidelining the United Nations. OK, perhaps these two have tainted reputations - I think they do. Cook presided over the disastrous sanctions on Iraq that killed many more than the war, and Short was not principled enough when she should have been. But they were insiders and would not easily rebuke their invincible leader without substantial knowledge of the facts.
Blair is guilty of political deception as serious as any the world has known. He never intended to take any notice of Hans Blix. Read the newly published "war diary"(actually a very nice hagiography of the Prime Minister) by Sir Peter Stothard, fomer editor of The Times. There it is clear that months before the many charades that were played and the dodgy dossiers were prepared, Blair was quite committed to following George Bush, who was going to war whatever happened.
"The people of Iraq are free," declare the warniks, and so what is the point of this relentless debate over the reasons that were given for the action? Because I believe that unless we hold the Prime Minister to account over this, it will happen again, and Blair will become even more contemptuous of our institutions and of international law.
The sad truth is that he is getting away with it because people don't want the Tories back and because Charles Kennedy is so addicted to his own affability that he is doing little or nothing - and that is a real shame for the Liberal Democrats and, more importantly, the country.
Come the autumn conferences, the New Labour tribe will reaffirm its leader - because it says there is nobody else to take his place, so great is his cult appeal now. As Roy Hattersley wrote recently: "The victory of personality over policy is almost complete. We are fast moving into a situation where the party - as a democratic institution - no longer exists. Its purpose is increasingly limited to the task of assisting in Blair's election." People forget that polls have shown that it was not Blair wot won the election in 1997 but the Tories who lost it.
And it could happen again. New Labour has so betrayed all of us who voted them in, and the meaning of democracy itself, that many will proactively refuse to vote at all next time round. And who knows what that will mean? And all because Tony Blair deceived the nation and never understood the implications of that for the future.Reuse content