Alex Salmond has appeared to suggest the internal Labour party coup against Jeremy Corbyn is connected with the publication of the long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war.
His comments come just three days before the publication of the inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war. Earlier reports have suggested Mr Blair, the former Prime Minister, and his contemporaries will be savaged in an “absolutely brutal” verdict.
In an article for the Herald, the former Scottish First Minister wrote: “It would be a mistake to believe that Chilcot and current events are entirely unconnected. The link is through the Labour Party”
“I have been puzzling as to exactly why the Parliamentary Labour Party chose this moment to launch their coup against Jeremy Corbyn and just what explains the desperation to get him out last week. It can hardly be because of a European referendum where [Mr] Corbyn’s campaigning, although less than energetic, was arguably more visible than that of say the likely big political winner Teresa May?”
He added: “I had a conversation on exactly this point with veteran Labour firebrand Dennis Skinner. He answered in one word ‘Iraq’. The Skinner line is that the coup was timed to avoid Corbyn calling for Blair’s head next Wednesday from the despatch box. Indeed many would say that when Corbyn stated that he would be prepared to see a former Labour Prime Minister tried for war crimes then he sealed his fate as leader of the Labour party.”
In a separate recorded interview, Mr Salmond added: “I’m just wondering what has actually provoked it now. They are saying it’s the European result… I thought he campaigned perfectly OK… I’m sort wondering – and I know some other people are – if this is not a bit connected with the Chilcot report next week.
“By many indications there is going to be a damning indictment of Tony Blair and his warmongering. Most of the people that are currently gunning for [Mr] Corbyn were among [Mr] Blair’s keenest supporters – so I’m wondering whether this is a pre-emptive strike about the Chilcot report because obviously Jeremy Corbyn has indicated he supports Tony Blair being held to account, as he should be. So I think there’s a bit more to this than meets the eye. Never seen anything quite like it in a parliamentary party.”
The Inquiry, which was set up by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in June 2009 to look into the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, will release its 2.6 million word report on Wednesday. It is expected to “damage the reputations” of a number of high-ranking officials.
Mr Salmond also told Sky News that there “has to be a judicial or political reckoning” for Mr Blair's role in the Iraq conflict.
“He seemed puzzled as to why Jeremy Corbyn thinks he is a war criminal, why people don't like him,” he added. “The reason is 179 British war dead, 150,000 immediate dead from the Iraq conflict, the Middle East in flames, the world faced with an existential crisis on terrorism - these are just some of the reasons perhaps he should understand why people don't hold him in the highest regard.”
“We are waiting to see Chilcot producing the evidence, which we believe is there, which will allow action to be taken.”
“One way or another there are many MPs, and this is not a party political thing, this is across the political parties, who are absolutely determined that account has to be held to,” he continued.
“[They believe] that you cannot have a situation where this country blunders into an illegal war with the appalling consequences and at the end of the day there isn't a reckoning. There has to be a judicial or political reckoning for that.”
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