Tony Blair has hinted he could reject the findings of the Chilcot inquiry if it attempts to dispute his position in the build-up to the 2003 Iraq war – a sign he intends to defend himself when the inquiry publishes its long-awaited report in July.
Claiming he hasn’t seen a copy of the report the former Prime Minister added that he “looks forward” to participating in a debate about its findings. “Make no mistake about that,” Mr Blair said.
It is understood, however, that Mr Blair and his team have had access to extracts of the report that directly refer to him through the Maxwellisation process – a system that allows access for those facing criticism from such a report and respond to its conclusions.
It comes after an anonymous source last week briefed the Sunday Times and claimed that Mr Blair and other former government officials will be savaged in an “absolutely brutal” verdict on the failings of the occupation. The source added that Mr Blair “won’t be let off the hook” over claims he offered military assistance to the former American President George W Bush, a year before the invasion of Iraq.
But today Mr Blair insisted that he made his position clear at the time and claimed that no one can “seriously dispute” that.
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 just two weeks after the EU referendum. It is expected to “damage the reputations” of a number of high-ranking officials.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether he would accept Chilcot’s report, the former Prime Minister responded: “Well it’s hard to say that when I haven’t seen it. Well, of course, you don’t see the report until it comes out so let’s wait for that point but I think when you go back and look at what was said I don’t think anyone can seriously dispute I was making it clear what my position was.
“By the way, the thing that will be important when it does happen is that we then have then a full debate and I look forward to participating in that. Make no mistake about that. It is really important we do debate these issues because we’ve got huge problems… let’s debate about the what is the right policy to deal with these days.
Last year, in an interview with CNN, the former Labour Prime Minister issued a partial apology. He said: “I can say that I apologise for the fact that the intelligence I received was wrong. I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning, and certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime”.
The Iraq Inquiry will be based on the testimony of more than 150 witnesses, who contributed to more than 130 sessions of oral evidence. It also incorporates the results of the examination of 150,000 Government documents examined.
Mr Blair also used the interview to deny earlier reports that he claimed a Government led by Jeremy Corbyn, the current Labour leader, would be a “very dangerous experiment” because of Mr Corbyn’s “populist” left-wing policies. On the Andrew Marr show he said he was not talking about Mr Corbyn.
He added that he would tell people to vote for Labour even with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm and said he does not "disrespect" the Islington MP and his views. Mr Blair said he was not being disloyal against Mr Corbyn and his attempts to come up with new policies that address some of the anger among voters.
Mr Blair said: "Let's wait and see what those policies are. I don't disrespect him as a person and his views at all."
On whether he could imagine himself telling people to vote Labour, the former PM said: "I will always tell people to vote Labour because I am Labour - it is just the way I am."
He added: "Personally, I would like to see the centre, by that I mean the centre-left and the centre-right, get its grip and its traction back on the political scene.
"I honestly do believe that a lot of the solutions to the problems we face today are less about ideology and far more to do with practicality and understanding modernity and the way that the modern world works."
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