When the motion for this afternoon's debate was first tabled, it looked like a naked piece of Opposition mischief-making. But it had a serious purpose, too, reflecting the widespread indignation – which went far beyond the Commons – that the inquiry into the Iraq war was to be held in secret. Over the past week, leading peers, along with members of the top brass and the judiciary, have all come out in favour of openness, or said they were ready to testify in public.
Gordon Brown then said that the degree of openness would be up to the chairman, Sir John Chilcot, which was the cue for Sir John to say that it was "essential" that as much as possible be held in public. This should have been the case all along. To start from a presumption of secrecy was a bad misjudgement. Now, though, the argument is about how much of a U-turn Mr Brown has executed. Not for the first time, a week has proved a long time in politics; today's debate now looks a waste of parliamentary time.