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Chilcot: Establishment writes its own rules to evade embarrassment

david cameron and tony blairThe Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war (March-April 2003, nearly 12 years ago) was set up in 2009 and took public evidence from its last witness in 2011. The announcement yesterday that the report after 6 years on inquiry is being strung out until after the election this May is truly scandalous. Cameron has tried to wash his hands of it by saying that he is not responsible and the inquiry is independent doesn’t wash. He closed down the Gibson inquiry into alleged UK involvement in US rendition when it became clear that its revelations could be highly embarrassing to the UK authorities, so there is no question that he could set a time limit for the Chilcot inquiry if he really wanted to.

What makes it all the more scandalous is not that more time is needed to complete the report (it has been completed), but rather that those criticised in the report have been given the option of indefinitely delaying its publication as a result of being given prior access to what it says about them and then being allowed endlessly to prevaricate by haggling over every detail they don’t like. On a matter that affects the whole nation and has left an abiding imprint of deep shame, this is outrageous.

Who, and on what authority, introduced this so-called Maxwellisation process? It has in fact no constitutional foundation except to protect political decision-makers once the tide of public opinion has turned against them. In the case of the Gibson report the finger pointed at Blair and Straw. In the case of Chilcot suspicion has again fallen on Blair, especially his personal exchange of messages with George Bush which were never revealed to the Cabinet nor to Parliament. More generally, the 30-year rule has been regularly used to protect political leaders from accountability rather than genuinely safeguarding the security of the State.

There is to be a parliamentary debate and vote on the publication of the Chilcot report on 29th of this month. If then there were a majority in favour of publication before the election, the Chilcot committee should be expected to accept that as reflecting the will of the public, and act to abide by that decision. But this is another area where the Establishment has laid down rules for its own convenience. The government will simply say, as it has done over 20 times on such occasions during this Parliament, that this is merely an advisory vote and it can be simply ignored.

If we are ever to hold political leadership to account in this country, radical reform is needed of all the non-statutory devices (including the royal prerogative used by ministers when all else fails) by which powers-that-be protect themselves from scrutiny.

One Comment

  1. Robert says:

    You voted for the war and as such much of the blame is laid at your feet as it all those others, so now your moaning that they have decided to allow the election to go forward without us knowing the facts.

    I’ve no faith in the inquiry nor have I in a law or judges which allows a leader to shred all evidence of wrong doing.

    The war is over Iraq is in a mess with massive corruption and a ISIS war, that should have been stopped by the British and Americans but the oil was flowing to America so they are happy.

    Not a lot more one can say really we will not wait with baited breath to see how Blair and his cronies the Campbell’s who did do up the dossiers for his boss and is now back after his depressive illness to help Miliband get his dossiers or his speeches done up.

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