‘War Crime’ allegations against Tony Blair causing ongoing problems for Labour

A problem that Labour continues to have, and one that it would love to wish away, is the issue of Tony Blair. Labour activists will tell you that it is not an issue on the doorstep or that we should be looking forward. I sympathise with those Labourites who marched against the war and desperately want this issue to be forgotten.

Unfortunately, Tony Blair and Iraq will just not go away. There are calls from the idiot wing of the Blairites that he should be brought back to help Labour’s prospects for 2015. (I imagine the Greens and Lib Dems would love the human manifestation of this grotesque war to return).

Archbishop Desmond Tutu refused to share a platform with him at a conference in Johannesburg on Friday, and in today’s Observer the Nobel Peace Prize winner has called for Blair and George W Bush to be put on trial at The Hague.

He writes in today’s Observer: “The then leaders of the United States [Mr Bush] and Great Britain [Mr Blair] fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.

“To say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre.”

He added: “The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.”

Referring to the death toll as a result of military action in Iraq since 2003 he said: “On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague.”

Tony Blair has responded angrily, repeating his usual line that Iraq and the world is better off without Saddam Hussain. The problem with that position is that it is a public interest defence, it doesn’t go to the heart of the allegation. It is a plea of mitigation but it does not respond to the basic allegation that the war itself was illegal.

Blair and Iraq remain a spectre that haunts Labour’s efforts to rehabilitate itself in the run-up to 2015. Tony Blair remains a member of the Labour Party. It ill-becomes a party that it has amongst its ranks a man who many in and out of the Party regards as someone who has questions to answer about war crimes.

While Labour refuses to act against Blair, or while its activists remain in denial about the legacy of Iraq, there remain electoral consequences in Brighton and Hove. It was a factor that saw Caroline Lucas pip Nancy Platts at the post in 2010 (in spite of Nancy’s unblemished record as an anti-war activist

And it goes further for Labour. There was the entire Cabinet who supported the war, and there are the ranks of back benchers who voted for this war. They did so because of the hope of preferment or because they were simply obeying orders from the Whips. Remember, there was an honourable member of the Cabinet who resigned on principle  over the war and there were a hundred or so Labour back benchers who also voted against it (in spite of threats and bullying).

A lingering doubt remains: how would a future Labour Government respond if the ‘intelligence’ demanded action against the next international villain? With Blair there, or thereabouts, I retain more than a sense of unease

Gordon Brown fails dismally over Iraq Inquiry

Gordon Brown looks increasingly pathetic over the Iraq inquiry. Having committed himself last Monday to a private inquiry, he has faced an increasing volume of calls for the inquiry to be held in public.

Today those calls were echoed by Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, who has said that as much evidence as possible should be held in public in a full retreat from the stance originally taken by Gordon Brown. In a letter to Mr Brown this evening, Sir John said it was “essential” to conduct a mainly open inquiry.

In the letter he said: “More broadly, I believe it will be essential to hold as much of the proceedings of the inquiry as possible in public, consistent with the need to protect national security and to ensure and enable complete candour in the oral and written evidence from witnesses.”

So Gordon Brown has, as predicted in this blog last week, totally failed those who wanted a confidential inquiry (Blair, Bush, Mandelson), and looks weak and ineffective to those who have called for the inquiry in public. As a leader he has failed us dismally and he can take no credit at all for this public inquiry.

Iraq Inquiry

Gordon Brown has made a concession saying that part of the inquiry into the Iraq way can be held in public. Earlier this week in this blog I said that such a compromise would satisfy no one.

And with every passing day this becomes more apparent.

There are now allegations that Tony Blair knew about a secret policy on the torture of terror suspects.

Brown is hiding behind a cover that national security could be compromised. There is no longer a threat to national security, and I don’t believe Iraq ever posed such a threat.

If, as Blair and Bush claim, the war was properly conceived and executed, a public enquiry would vindicate them. If not, they deserve to be exposed, given the cost in human lives, and held accountable for war crimes carried out in our name.

A part public, part private inquiry will be seen as a shoddy little cover up, further eroding the credibility of a man who advocates the values of the Manse.

A public inquiry is the honourable act, Gordon

I understand that Gordon Brown is coming under increasing pressure, not least from military chiefs(!), to hold in public at least part of the inquiry into the Iraq war.

Brown Error Number One was to announce a non-public inquiry

Brown Error Number Two will be to announce a half hearted, part public, part secret inquiry.

Brown could have been credited by holding a wide ranging, fully public inquiry. But his instincts to mistrust the public prevailed.

If he agrees a part public inquiry he will attract no plaudits. Supporters of Blair and Bush will be angry; those opposed to the war will remain outraged.

Do the honourable thing, Gordon. Allow a full public inquiry into whatwas done in our name.