Today marks the day when the Chicott enquiry moves into hyperdrive. The effervescent Claire Short is giving evidence, and ahead of her appearance new documents are released giving her concerns about Iraq policy at the time.
For all the documentary evidence you can visit the Chilcott site and see all the written evidence provided to date.
Claire Short as we all know is not one to hold her tongue once released, and today she does not disappoint those waiting to hear the real story behind her resignation, her dismay at Blair and his style of government, nor with his cosy relationship with George Bush.
Letting rip is how one commentator has already described her testimony, as she slams Blair’s ‘unsafe’ and ‘chaotic’ system of government and describes Blair as ‘deceptive’.
Her attacks have also focused on Alastair Campbell, Lord Goldsmith and the legal advice that paved the way to war.
Analysts had expected Ms Short, who resigned from Cabinet in protest at the war, to be outspoken, but her level of honesty and plain-speaking still shocked observers as she laid into target after target.
Committee member Sir Roderic Lyne pointed out other witnesses had pointed out the most important element was that “policy on Iraq was being discussed intensively with the relevant people”.
Ms Short replied:
“I believe in the old-fashioned civil service way of running things. I think ministers should be in charge of their department but all voices should come to the table… you improve things by that kind of discussion.
“The government didn’t act like that. Power is pulled into No 10, everything is announced to the media. The House of Commons is a rubber-stamp… I think the machinery of government in Britain now is unsafe. It leads to endless litigation.
“In the case of Iraq there was secretiveness and deception on top of that.”
Asked about Alistair Campbell, she had this to say:
“He and I never got on. I didn’t obey him. He would brief against you and that how the government worked, that’s the way No 10 worked. You keep Tony’s favour and Alastair doesn’t brief against you”
Whilst much of what she had to say is not new, it does put it into perspective against all the other witness statements that Chilcott has taken so far.
When the questioning moved on to Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General she had this to say:
“He misled the Cabinet, he certainly misled me”
A fairly straightforward opinion I would say, but she back this up by explaining that when Goldsmith read his opinion in cabinet:
“He started reading it out and then he says ‘that’s it’. I said, ‘that’s extraordinary, why is it so late? Did you change your mind?’.”
She claims she was then “jeered at” to be quiet when trying to initiate a discussion.
In a previously-secret letter, which was released by the Iraq Inquiry today, appears to suggest that war was already inevitable.
Claire Short wrote to Tony Blair on March 5 2003, two days before attorney general Lord Goldsmith advised the prime minister the invasion could be legal without a second UN Security Council Resolution and 13 days before the House of Commons voted in favour of the conflict.
”You should be aware that the US and the international humanitarian community are not properly prepared to deal with the immediate humanitarian concerns.”
”A little more time would make the US much better able to deal with some of the humanitarian consequences of conflict.
”My department is doing what we can to advise the UK military on preparations for delivering humanitarian assistance, including in the initial absence of the UN and most international NGOs (non-governmental organisations). We too could also be better prepared given more time.”
“The UN is clear that without the right mandate they could only respond to immediate humanitarian needs.”My understanding is that the US has not accepted all our arguments on the UN role.
“Unless they do, DfID (the Department for International Development) could do no more than support UN humanitarian efforts, and few others would be willing to engage.”
She also said she believed it was ”in the best interests of the Iraqi people and the coalition military” for the ”period when coalition forces run Iraq” to be as short as possible.
Claire Short is not pulling here punches here, and to be honest its about time someone spoke out, clear and crisp to upset the wall of collusion that we have seen and heard so far.
If ever there was a ‘kind’ of politician that we need in parliament right now, its the kind that Clare Short represents. I may disagree with her politics, but her honest shines through the fog of hypocracy, spin, lies and deceit that lay all around her.
Well done Claire. I was beginning to think Chilcott was a sheep farm.
EDIT: I have just seen this twitter.
Applause from public for Clare Short at the end of her #Iraq evidence. Sir John Chilcot looking slightly stunned by the morning’s session.
Sums it up nicely.