Tony Blair's
"A Journey"


This page continues our cogitation on the eternal mystery
that is the Chilcot Inquiry - links to earlier episodes
in the Pear Shaped Iraq Inqury Enquiry
can be found at the bottom of the page


Well, we're vaguely told now that the Salmon Letters have indeed gone out and that the Iraq Inquiry Report may see the light of day before the 2015 General Election although this has to happen by March or it will be delayed till after the general election..... So rather than wade through any more transcripts... (I've read them all now anyway) .... I thought instead we'd have a wade through Tony Blair's autobiography … called "A Journey".  Sort of the inverse of the Iraq Inquiry which is more "Going Nowhere" and seems in a state of unending stasis try and get inside the mind of the great man himself and decide if he is indeed a warmonger ...not by analysis of his actions so much as his mind ...  what makes him tick...?

The first problem with Tony Blair’s autobiography is that it’s hugely long and, of course, not strictly told in chronological order because … why would you?  That said it has a sort of rough chronology and it’s certainly more chronological than George W’s.  Unlike George W's autobiography it was not remaindered in Poundland so I struggled with my conscience over whether or not it was ethical to actually buy the volume and eventually I went the third way and borrowed it from the library at a cost in late renewal fines of 30p.  29p more than the 1 p I could have bought it for second hand on Amazon if you don’t count the postage costs but one has to have an ethical line somewhere.  Even at the Pear.

Unlike David Copperfield Tony doesn’t begin his life with the beginning of his life and we learn little about Tony the child with the exception of the traumatic death of his mother who's ghost haunts the volume ... that said some other flashes of his youth do pass in front of us even if they are never really focused on – then again perhaps that’s how we all remember childhood after 50.  

That said the clues are there ... and there is a genuinely funny story about his returning from University dressed in a pair of curtains...  there's also the story of his father who had a stroke when he was 11 and the effect the dematerialisation of some of his father's right wing friends in the wake of this had on moving Tony a little to the left...

Early on in the book he waxes lyrical about his worship of his Chambers Pupil Master Derry Irvine who when Tony hands in his work plays little psychological games like pretending he’s going to send work out unread when Tony has clearly only handed it to him for his approval.  When Tony questions whether it was wise to send out the work as it is Derry retorts that he only wants Tony’s “BEST WORK” and sends him away with a flea in his ear. 

To Derry...This is meant to make us empathise with Derry and his quest for perfectionism in the law or something but he just comes over as a bit of a ... well I'll say wally he is a lawyer.  I’ve been in the working world for 18 years and never felt the need to play these childish psychological games with anyone and would never allow anyone to play them with me.  But Tony thinks that Derry has “taught him to think”.  Yes, he’s one of those people.  One of those people who thinks that they couldn’t think until someone else “taught them” to.  Personally I think I was born thinking and no one else taught me to but possibly my early life was probably a bit more complicated than Tony’s so I naturally learnt how to plot and scheme whereas Tony had to be taught.  Tony describes Derry as “tyrannical but a genius”… which is a nice way of saying he was a workaholic and a tad overbearing? <- Question mark for legal reasons.

It’s through Derry and Cherie who worked in the same chambers that Tony gets sucked into politics (it really is like something out of Rumpole of the Bailey).  Cherie’s father Tony Booth (of In Sickness and In Heath fame) hung out with a lot of Labour MPs and Tony gets invited to see Tom Pendry MP at the House of Commons.  Bang.  Tony decides he wants to be an MP…. Probably to escape the 12 hour days Derry has him working and the shame of Cherie clearly having the better career.

Tony admits to being bullied at school.  “I can still recall the exact moment for me aged about ten, outside Durham Choristers School in the beautiful and ancient Cathedral Close where we first lived when we came to the city, with the old SPCK bookshop and the eighteenth century houses and cottages beside the Norman splendour of the cathedral.” 

Yes, it’s a very upper middle class fight scene but just as you’re bracing yourself for the scrap Tony manages to diffuse the situation without ever having to raise a fist.  It be tough down Durham Choristers School.  Okay, I know these are cheap shots but as Arnold Brown would say ... "and why not"?

Early on there is a chapter exploring the various people who worked at number 10 with Tony.  My main (and I guess most casual readers’) reaction to reading this was “who the hell are they?”  Tony seems to confide in and need a huge number of special advisers and one thing that stands out is that not many of them seem to be members of the parliamentary Labour party… although a few individuals from the party do get a plug: notably Clare Short.  The statement after her name that “Alastair will hate me for saying that” …or something … is telling.  He waxes lyrical about how bright all his advisers are - making yours truly feel very thick indeed.  There aren’t just one or two unknown people in this section either it’s like the final credits of a Pixar animation.  Perhaps forseeing this might be a problem for some readers Tony admits there were some objections raised at the time along the lines that having so many special advisors might be seen as something of a constitutional outrage … however he insists they are all essential. 

Kate Garvey gets a special mention as “the Gatekeeper” - The woman in charge of the diary.  Tony Blair later goes on to explain that one of the ultimate sins of government was to schedule a meeting which he doesn’t want because his time is too precious.  Particularly with someone very boring like another member of the Parliamentary Labour Party.  Tony’s ploy was to constantly tell people he would meet them … then not meet them.  Garvey later married Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame.  Angela Margaret Jane (Anji) Hunter also becomes a recurring character who pops up throughout the book to give Tony presentational advice of the “have a photo eating ice cream cornets with the chancellor” kind.  There’s a sweet reflection on the halcyon days of Tony’s political honeymoon and he spends much of his time early on in the book talking about hoarding his political capital and later spending it by making potentially unpopular decisions.  Like War.

There’s a long section about persuading Gordon Brown not to go for the leadership a process that took place in other people’s houses and flats.  Including a negotiation that took place in an ex-girlfriend’s flat.   Sorry keeping in touch with your exes – that’s just weird.  You can tell most of the text is actually written by Tony from the phrasing.  For example on being outwitted by Dennis Skinner at a party meeting he says something like “They [the audience] knew what was coming next.  I didn’t”.  And on outwitting Gordon Brown for the leadership he says something like “I saw that he didn’t”.  The same phrases are repeated throughout the book in this manner.   It still has a written-by-committee feel but not to the same extent as George W’s autobiography.  Other recurring phrases are things like “Amazing I know but true”… to describe the state of the Labour party in the 1980s or the SNP man who asked what happens if the Scottish people vote No in the Referendum for a Scottish Parliament.  “Then we’ll assume they don’t want one”.  Tony describes later in the book the special Scottish talent for making even him seem an outsider.   Amazing.  Anyway... There’s also an interesting section about selecting John Prescott for the deputy leadership – including a statement along the lines that they couldn’t have Gordon because two Scotts wouldn’t play well with the southerners.  One for the SNP there next time they moan they don’t get the government they vote for.

One of the problems with the book is that Tony not only tells us what happened but inflicts long tracts of political theory on us between these events and analyses the processes behind them and his mental reasoning to the point of complete and utter pointlessness.  It’s a bit like reading Moby Dick.  There’s a good story at the core of it but you could literally rip out about 300 odd pages and make the thing 8 times as entertaining and half as boring and no one would care.  I mean at one point he actually starts a chapter with his political views on going to the toilet... informing us that he couldn't live in a culture that doesn't take having a poo and ablutions seriously... and I wondered how many cultures there are who don't take having a poo seriously enough.  Still, at least he keeps shit real.  That said look at the length of pages on this website.  Pot and Kettle.  Never-the-less in dramatic terms the theoretical political diatribes don’t exactly move the plot along.

In amongst this waffle are some amazing stories.  For example when during the opposition period Rupert Murdoch decides to invite Tony Blair to a meeting via asking him to speak …in Australia.  It’s almost designed as a test of stamina.  How far is Tony prepared to go to win Rupert’s support?  Well, literally as physically far as you can actually go - The other side of the world.  Paul Keating the then Australian Premier sagely advises Tony:

 (I’ve filled in the *s)

And so was born the new Labour era of ever increasing indirect taxation that, of course, actually hits those at the bottom the worst. 

After discussing the death of Princess Diana and how he and Alastair sorted out the Queen’s PR problems there’s a chapter on Peace in Northern Ireland.  This reads like it’s the CV Tony Blair handed in when seeking out the job of Middle East Peace envoy.  The problem with Northern Ireland, Tony tells us, is that previously it hadn’t been “gripped” properly.  But appropriately gripped by Tony it was all made cool.  If only the Middle East peace process could be gripped in this way it would all be solved but no one has the determination he tells us.  There is something in this but there are, of course, significant differences with the situation in Israel/Palestine to the one in Northern Ireland that make this comparison a bit flaky to say the least.  For instance however bad the troubles were during "the troubles" the UK remained in unequivocal political control of Northern Ireland the whole time.  The worst the Unionists could do was a lot of discrimination and the worst the IRA could do was a lot of bombing.  Contrastingly in Israel/Palestine there are huge unresolved issues about where the borders should be that have never been resolved since 1948.  The border in Northern Ireland is not in dispute – just the existence of the border.  The question is simply should it be a province of Ireland or of the UK? and neither country seems particularly bothered about the answer to that question … only the inhabitants of the region in dispute. However in Israel/Palestine virtually everybody throughout the nation and the “it-should-be-a-nation” has very strong opposing views on where the border should be …not just the people in the disputed territories …so the comparison is a bit simplistic.  Never-the-less Tony keeps repeating that if only it was “gripped” it would be solved. 

The process of the tortuous negotiations towards the Good Friday agreement and beyond certainly is gripping but after that you have to wade through slightly more political theory than I personally wanted to.  Mind you probably you're not meant to read these books cover to cover as I am but since the object is to see the decision to go to war in Iraq through Tony's eyes I thought we should try.  Tony doesn’t deny anyone else’s contribution or suggest that peace in Northern Ireland wasn’t part of a long term trend but he doesn’t exactly spend a lot of time on what his Northern Ireland secretaries contributed.  Later on he moans about Mo Mowlam saying something like she’s now the most popular person in the government and can she have a better job.  As John Rentoul would say this is a question to which the answer is “no”.

There’s a long chapter on Kosovo (which includes Tony’s other early military adventures.  On page 229 we learn that:

In other words Tony just doesn’t believe in International Law or National Self Determination – he believes he has the right to simply remove other governments in other countries that he deems bad?   Not that there’s anything wrong with having a moral basis for decisions but really morality isn’t and never can be the law or international law because otherwise international law wouldn’t function - if everyone makes unilateral moral decisions alone there is no point in or meaning to international law.  Obviously sensing how controversial this view is he continues: “If the answers were no, then that didn’t mean you reach for the military solution.  You need to try all other alternatives.”  However, the words are already said and the meaning is already meant.  Anyway Tony doesn’t think that the problems in Kosovo can be sorted out by the Europeans very easily so he starts lobbying President Clinton to help out.  And perhaps this is the beginning of the start of the problem.  Does Tony think that because the US helped us out in Kosovo we have to help them out in Iraq?  Clearly Tony sees himself as some kind of equal with the American President and we come back time and time again to the fact he isn’t.   He’s just a Prime Minister not a head of state.  Tony believes that Milosevic would not have stopped without the credible threat of force – meaning the threat that we would put troops on the ground if he didn’t comply.  Tony walks us through the problems of air strikes – easy at first then less and less effective as the enemy embeds its remaining weapons in civilian areas.  Eventually it is the potential involvement of the Russians that seems to push everyone into behaving themselves. 

There’s also a bizarre scene which makes Vladimir sound like a Yewtree suspect:

We had exchanged some pretty harsh words about it, but it was all over now, so he came across the room to greet me with one of his famous hugs. 

I was happy to be embraced, as it signalled that the feud was a thing of the past and now we could all get on.  The hug began.  The first ten seconds were, I thought, wonderfully friendly.  The next ten began to get a little uncomfortable.  The following ten started respiratory problems.  I finally got released after about a minute ad staggered off in search of a stiff drink.  I think he made his point

There’s a bit on Sierra Leone that for the sake of keeping this review from turning into a novella I’ll skip over.

As a result of the Kosovo Conflict Tony Blair gave a speech on the 24th of April 1999 setting out his ideas of when and how military invention should take place:

First, are we sure of our case? War is an imperfect instrument for righting humanitarian distress; but armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators.

Second, have we exhausted all diplomatic options? We should always give peace every chance, as we have in the case of Kosovo.

Third, on the basis of a practical assessment of the situation, are there military operations we can sensibly and prudently undertake?

Fourth, are we prepared for the long term? In the past we talked too much of exit strategies. But having made a commitment we cannot simply walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with large numbers.

And finally, do we have national interests involved? The mass expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo demanded the notice of the rest of the world. But it does make a difference that this is taking place in such a combustible part of Europe.

After quoting this Mr Blair says “In retrospect, applying those tests to Iraq shows what a finely balanced case it was, and why I never thought those who disagreed were stupid or weak minded”. 

Taking the tests in turn…  One might argue that how sure you are of your case is not important in international law.  It is your responsibility to be RIGHT about the threat … so is point number one a reversal of the burden of proof?  Law is about justice and if you make a mistake and invade somewhere that isn’t a credible threat to you this is an international miscarriage of justice?

Secondly have all diplomatic options been exhausted should be a fairly binary issue.

Thirdly what can be done is a matter mainly for the military.

Fourthly seems to be an argument for continual occupation… but maybe not?

Fifthly …erm …well this is more of a question than a statement.

Tony probably realises there are some problems here because he says obviously these aren’t the only tests as if he’s just realised you can’t write all international law on his own.

There’s various sessions about people plotting and briefing against each other where Tony sagely advises people not to take it to heart as they don’t know who’s leaking/briefing what to whom.   However, it all goes a bit bitter when they manage to topple Peter Mandelson.  Peter resigned twice.  The first time was over an interest-free loan of £373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson.  This created a conflict of interest as Mandelson’s department was supposed to be investigating the millionaire’s business and it had not been declared.  There was also the problem of incredulity that anyone would loan anyone £373,000 for nothing – it’s not just dodgy but outside most people’s experience.  Early on in the book Tony explains that Peter was originally a supporter of Gordon Brown when Gordon was the favourite to take over from John Smith and he had sort of slithered over to be closer to Mr Blair when it became clear that he would be the next Prime Minister.  Peter is a conduit between the two and remains at least superficially friendly with both … not that I can claim to know all the ins and outs but it is a very complex relationship.  At this event Tony goes into a massive sulk as he does again when Peter has to resign for a second time over the Hunduja brothers affair.  Mandelson insisted he’d done nothing wrong and was eventually exonerated by an To
                                              Sir Anthony Hammondindependent inquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond in that way that independent inquiries tend to exonerate people but don’t make them look innocent.  Tony has a long moan about this and says he should have shown more backbone and not caved into the press and explains that there is only “a limited pool of talent”… which I took to mean …”there’s only a limited number of people who agree with me as much as Peter did”.  In a country of 65 million are there really so few talented people?  Anyway thus begins Tony's love affair with
independent inquiries that seemingly clear everybody but...
There’s a section on ASBOs and on the spot fines where Tony discusses the need to
lower the burden of proof in order to get more instant justice as he thinks too much anti-social behaviour goes unpunished because the system cannot cope with the volume of crime. 

There’s something in this view – the system of everything having to go to a full court case was difficult and cumbersome...  But leaving aside the problems of removing rights that go all the way back to Magna Carta there’s the problem of it trivialising the social stigma of a criminal conviction.  If it’s too easy to get a record then you are lowering the status of a criminal conviction to giving someone a parking ticket.  The ASBO becoming a badge of honour effect.  Tony doesn’t seem to even ponder this.  Moreover near the end of the book Tony becomes quite chilling in his assessment that compromising on civil liberties is "the price" of reducing crime.  But, of course, without habeas corpus the state simply becomes a criminal - as we can see from the recent antics of the CIA.  Also if someone doesn't believe in the presumption of innocence in UK law perhaps it isn't a great shock to discover that they don't believe in the presumption of innocence in international law?  Mr Blair's dealings with Blix and Saddam and his dealings with "the minority" of people involved in anti-social behaviour do seem when you read the book as a whole rather than in parts to simply be the product of taking his view of home affairs and trying to project it on to international affairs.

Now I’m not saying Tony Blair wanted to privatise the NHS but on page 319 he writes of the NHS “Monolithic systems either were in the process of being changed of were failing.  It was true that the failing of the US system was the numbers of poor people left out, but – and this was an uncomfortable truth too many ignored – for those who were covered, the standard of care and its responsiveness (together with the second-order things like food, the environment, the ability to switch appointments and so on) were often much higher than in a purely state-run service…."  Not seeming to realise that this was exactly because of the numbers of poor people left out.  Which made me giggle a bit although it shouldn't.  He then goes on a rant against people who wanted to “keep the status quo” and “just put in more money”. 

And there are huge sections about reforming systems and the “givens” within systems that become a problem when you start to tamper with how the system works in any way…  This is actually quite interesting as Tony attempts to explain the problems of top down organisation and how he wishes the Prime Minister could go Back to the Floor and become Undercover Boss.  Endemol please ring Number 10.  In between all this are various pieces exploring the politics and personalities of New Labour.  There are one or two quite good one liners.  It isn’t really professional to do someone else’s jokes within a comedy review but I particularly enjoyed “Neil Kinnock complained John Prescott has a chip on each shoulder – as opposed to his one on one shoulder”.

There’s then a section on the aftermath of 9/11 which pretty much mirrors what George W recalls in his autobiography so let’s not go over all that again.  Okay very quickly.  Widows.  Orphans.  Chaos.  Wanting to cry but not being allowed to because you’re Prime Minister.  George W being confident about his speech to Congress.  Tony says that actually probably George and Silvio shouldn’t have used the word “crusade” which was bound to be “misinterpreted”.  Everyone grovels to General Musharraf and turns a blind eye to the dark side of his regime in order to get troops into Afghanistan.  When Tony asks what he can do to help, Musharraf “shoots back “do Palestine””.  Just to make it fun Tony also gives us his views on Islam and how it should be modernised and the spectrum of opinion.  Tony tells us that even those who completely condemn terrorism “have not yet confidently found their way to articulating a thoroughly reformed and modernising view of Islam.  In other words, it is true they find the terrorism repugnant and they wish to be in alliance with the Western nations against it, but this does not yet translate into an alternative narrative for Islam that makes sense of its history and provides a coherent vision for its future.  What this means is that very often countries in the Arab and Muslim world will offer their people a disconcerting and ultimately self-defeating choice between a ruling elite with the right idea, but which they are reluctant or fearful to advertise, and a popular movement with the wrong one, which they are all too keen to proclaim”.   One could postulate that the religious extremism of fundamentalist Islam and it’s reaction to a superficially liberal tolerant ruling elite is not that different to the struggle in the 16th century between Cromwell’s Puritan Parliamentarians and the Totalitarian but fun Cavaliers but let’s not go there.  Tony goes on to explain how Christians created Islam by being very bad in the middle east one day and there was a political backlash.  Or something.  Tony tells us how after a few years the “moral force with which the action had been launched began to dissipate”.  Hum…

So long is the book that by the time we get to the Iraq war I’ve actually forgotten why I’m reading it.  The Chapter on getting into the Iraq War starts with Tony Blair’s feelings at giving testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry.  He says he’s sorry but not wrong.  He uses the word responsibility.   Compassion.  Think about it every day of my life.  The problem with talking about Iraq, says Tony, is people have stopped listening to each other on the subject.  They don’t understand that leadership is hard.  He understands that we don’t understand.  WMD.  Turned out to be wrong.  Charles Duelfer.  David Kay.  I’d read the book to try and analyse this section factually but so much have I read on the war that perhaps Tony is right… the desire to stop listening to him is indeed overwhelming.  See the bottom of the page if you want to go over all this in detail yet again ...

To Duelfer and the
                                              Major General again...But anyway Tony tells us that Duelfer report had managed to conduct interviews with key personal from the Iraqi regime after the invasion and even Saddam himself and even uncovered tapes of meetings with Saddam at which WMD was discussed.  Tony tells us that they discovered that Saddam had made a tactical decision from the mid 1990s onwards to remove sanctions at all costs and the active WMD program was shut down then.   Which only makes you think so why were we doing this again?  I suppose the answer is we’re supposed to believe that the US and UK didn’t know this. 
Then we go over gassing the Kurds again and  how the ISG concluded Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability.  There’s a reference to the discredited Butler Report. 

To the JIC goes
                                                Pear Shaped in Iraq...

The Butler report on the total lack of WMD found after the war is remembered as much for the natty attire of the particpants as it's total lack of political credibility.  From left to right ....

Sir John Chilcot (previous SIS shop steward now heading this Inquiry)
Michael Mates (Conservative MP who sat on the committee despite Michael Howard saying that the Conservative Party would not be officially taking part as the terms of reference of the Inquiry were "unaccetably restrictive"
Ann Taylor, Labour MP who supported the invasion of Iraq and was actually involved in drafting the "dodgy dossier" (please consult the dossiergram if you can't remember which dossier was which), chair of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), and former chief whip of the Labour Party
Field Marshal The Lord Inge former Cheif of Defence Staff

The Lord Butler of Brockwell (ex Cabinet secretary)

Hollow laugh …but to be fair it wasn’t all nonsense.  Next there’s some stuff about the manipulation of the oil for food program.  There’s some stuff about the discarded mobile labs and Blix.  But we come back to none of this is concrete evidence of an active WMD program.  Tony tells us – and this is a theme he returns to – that one of the problem was getting interviews with Saddam’s staff and officials … who were supposed to tell them the program was or wasn’t still active … who were themselves in fear of Saddam.   The next paragraph is pretty amazing:

The danger had we backed off in 2003, is very clear; the UN inspectors led by Blix were never going to get those interviews; they may well have concluded (wrongly) that Saddam had given up his WMD ambitions, sanctions would have been dropped and it would have impossibly hard to reapply pressure to a regime that would have been “cleared”.  Saddam would then have had the intent; the know-how, and with a rising oil price, enormous purchasing power”.

This is a masterpiece of circular logic that does with words what M. C. Escher used to do with pictures.  We have to go to war because Blix couldn’t get the interviews with Saddam’s weapons experts.  Had Blix got the interviews with Saddam’s weapons experts we’d have to not only have not gone to war we’d have had to drop sanctions.  Sanctions would be dropped because the policy of disarmament would have worked but Tony insists that Saddam still wanted to re-arm so even if the policy had worked it wouldn’t have because there’d now be no pressure on him not to arm.  Tony argues that if they did try to re-arm new sanctions could then not have been applied for and would not have worked – he does not know this but states it as a fact.  In fact Saddam’s crime as far as Tony sees it is intent –it is inchoate.  So even if he does disarm he is not sincere and so has not really disarmed.  Tony then says that the problem is that a disarmed Iraq without any sanctions still has the intent to gain nuclear weapons (even though he doesn’t know what the interviewees have said and most of them refuse to be interviewed) and worse it would have a lot of money via oil with which to buy them.  Who said the war wasn’t about oil?  So the danger is not just that of Saddam having arms – the danger is that he is not sincere.  The argument then is no longer about the existence or quantity of WMD at all it is about trust.  Tony simply doesn’t trust Saddam to keep to any agreement (to be fair he’s failed to keep to many agreements) and thus he feels he has the right to invade, as far as I make out, simply because he doesn’t trust Saddam.  In short Tony has more or less said here that it didn’t matter what the regime did he would have invaded anyway.  Hasn’t he?  Aware this argument may be a bit too truthful the next page backtracks and tells us that his point is not to persuade us it was right to invade but that had we failed to invade Saddam would have re-emerged stronger and his sons would have taken over.

Then we do the death statistics.  These go back as far as the 1980s Iran-Iraq War who’s death toll Blair dumps entirely on Saddam’s shoulders alone  …then again why not? – he started it.  Then we do all the arguments about sanctions and the number of children that died and who’s to blame for that and Tony tells us it’s now all a lot better before going on about the deaths “we never saw”.  Aware that the numbers are endlessly debatable Tony then claims that this is not to say things are necessarily better …just one needs to see both points of view.  I’m sure I could do a joke about holding multiple points of view at the same time isn’t something Tony struggles with here … but actually the problem seems to be that as time goes on he becomes single minded to the point of…

To JIC ...Tony insists there was no big “lie” about WMD and says the JIC reports were spread over many years as if the expanse of time makes them more conclusive.  In a remarkable level of retroactive moaning on page 381 he reminds us that in 1981 Israel had bombed the nuclear weapons research facility at Tuwaitha near Baghdad and  then jumps forward to the gassing of the Kurds in 1998 and the execution for “spying” of Farzard Bazoft in March 1990.  Next he goes on to have a pop at al-Qaeda and Iran for their attempts to prevent Iraq stabilising and praise Nouri Maliki for having put up with a lot.  Tony explains there was a short battle to take Iraq which we won and a longer occupation which was a bit more erm … and this becomes a regular refrain.  See how many times you can spot it in this article. 

He recalls his visit to Camp David (see Disaster PoTo Tim Tyler...ints / watch Meet the Parents) and tells us the George W was not an idiot.  Then he waffles on about inaction also being a decision as much as action.  George it seems “had immense simplicity in how he saw the world.  Right or wrong, it led to decisive leadership”...   Presumably the sort of leadership Solomon might have exhibited if he’d actually chosen to cut a baby in half.

On page 406 we review the September 2002 dossier and Tony tells us that at the time it was considered dull (it still is).  He then puts forward the argument that because no one asked any parliamentary questions about it much there was nothing to worry about and points out only two people asked questions about the 45 minutes claims.  Tony states that because no one brought up the issue in the debate of 18th of March 2003 then it wasn’t an issue … completely ignoring the fact that perhaps the reason no one questioned it was because they believed it was the truth and Andrew Gilligan’s story about the 45 minute claim wasn’t actually broadcast on the BBC till May 29th 2003 (i.e. after the invasion) ……his rearrangement of this timeline is obvious to anyone who reads the whole book when we actually come to the Gilligan episode later down the line.  Tony also tells us that neither he nor Alastair wrote any of the dossier.  Apart from the forward which he wrote himself …which contains the 45 minute claim…. Which he tells us he did not write … if I read him correctly.  In case of dossier confusion refer to the dossiergram (there are 2).

On page 407 Tony tells us he was specifically told by the security services that Saddam had made efforts to conceal his program by dismantling and storing certain equipment which is getting ever further away from a threat that may be deployed in 45 minutes “Anyway,  no doubt after the 5th Inquiry there will still be calls for more.  The truth is we believed, without any doubt at all, that Saddam had an active WMD program.  Given his history, we did so for pretty good reasons”.  Which may be translated as no we didn’t really have evidence but we just believed and anyway haven’t I told you enough times that he was a bad man having covered the history of Iraq right back to the 1980s and confused all the various wars Iran and Iraq and Kuwait and Kurdistan a lot as if they are inseparable and I’m not attempting to compress the time span.

On page 408 there’s a fascinating description of Dick Cheney designed to make him sound more human stating that he believed the US was already in an ideological war and “would have worked his way through the whole lot Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hezbollah, Hamas etc … So he was for hard, hard power”.  Yes, it really does say that.  Erm…

Robin Cook warns Tony that it will be a disaster electorally reminding him of Wilson and his decision to stay out the Vietnam war.  Tony replies that Wilson lost the 1970 General Election quickly adding “I’m not, by the way commenting on the decision only the pure politics of it”.

Hans Blix comes over as a bit leaned on …on page 411:  “I have to decide for war or peace” he says.  Tony tells him “You don’t.  Just give us your honest assessment”.

Eventually back at Chequers Tony cogitates through the Christmas holiday about the invasion.  By now he is familiar with the interior and drops in the odd description of this room and that and all the Prime Ministerial historical paraphernalia therein contained.   He admits that Saddam’s WMD threat is no greater than North Korea of Libya (page 413) and cogitates on the larger issues of the middle east and timing.  He admits George gave him many opportunities to opt out.  Tony’s main argument for the war reading between the lines seems to be something along the lines of how bad Iraq was and that some sort confrontation was coming anyway and we had to decide to go with the USA or not and then …and then … to fall back on the MacBeth argument for naughtiness “If it were done when 'tis done, then 't were well it were done quickly”.

If you had told me then that we would not find WMD after we toppled Saddam, and that following his removal there would be six years of conflict as we grappled with the terrorism so cruelly inflicted upon the Iraqi people, would my decision have been different?  I ask that question every day.  So much bloodshed.  So many lives so brutally affected or destroyed.  Yes, a new Iraq is now emerging and at last there are signs of hope.  But at what cost?

Genuine remorse, hedging his bets …or both?

One major obstacle to reading the book is that Tony insists particularly during the Iraq War sections on including vast unedited sections of other reports and his own speeches in a “look don’t tell me I didn’t tell you what I was going to do I just didn’t tell you” way.  To be honest the book seems designed to defeat the reader through sheer volume and complexity of output in places … so a bit like the Pear Shaped website. 

Blix’s report of November 2002 is more or less quoted wholesale as if this makes anything any clearer.  Tony explains it is to make clear that they had no doubt that Saddam had an active WMD program but that isn’t quite what Blix’s report says.  Also it depends what you mean by active.  If you mean they were actively thinking about it maybe they were but actively doing…?  Going to war on the basis of a possible inchoate crime isn’t the line Blair spun parliament and when he says this was debated it is debatable how much Blix’s report was actually debated and in the context of what other information.  The book is so confusing and long the temptation is just to make glib sarcastic remarks but let’s try and read it objectively I tell myself … that is sort of the point of these pages …I tell myself … and then find myself writing something sarcastic and glib instead.

On page 421 we are told Lord Goldsmith wasn’t pressured to change his mind and then the legal arguments are re-trod all over again.  Resolution 1441 we are told on page 422 “didn’t explicitly state that military action was to follow” and a case could be made that another resolution was expressly authorising force was needed but “it was equally valid to argue that is wasn’t”.  Such is the wonder of international law.  Two completely opposite viewpoints can be both be equally valid.  However, surely in the final analysis either one is valid and the other is invalid or international law means literally nothing. 

The resolution 678 revival argument is run over again.   Tony tells us that had Saddam done a Gaddafi it would have all been okay.  Jimmy Hill.  Tony then bemoans how is best efforts made the divisions in the international community inexplicably larger nor smaller.  Having told us he is sure of things Tony then tells us on page 424 that the inspectors reports were inconclusive.  On page 425 Tony explains his reasoning in another long speech the first paragraph of which reads “The moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam.  It is not the reason we act.  That must be according to the United Nations mandate on weapons of mass destruction.  But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience”.  But surely the moral case for war was supposed to be to protect ourselves from attack?  Confusing, isn’t it?  It’s almost as if he’s saying “look we all know it isn’t about WMD really”.

He goes on to tell us that if Saddam had been a good boy sanctions would not have lasted as long and we return to the subject of the interviews that Blix could not get with Saddam’s officials:

The issue of interviews was absolutely of the essence.  In the end it was how the ISG got to the truth of the whole business.  The reality was that he was never going to allow his top people to spill the beans.  In December 2002, after Blix and UNMOVIC entered Iraq, we had intelligence (and this remains valid) of Saddam calling his key people working on weapons together and telling them anyone who cooperated with interviews outside of Iraq would be treated as an enemy agent.  Later in 2004, the ISG uncovered evidence of a meeting of over four hundred scientists chaired by Taha Ramadan, the vice president of Iraq, just before the inspectors returned, in which he warned them of dire consequences if the inspectors found anything that interfered with the lifting of sanctions.  Of course the obligation under 1441 was just the opposite: to disclose anything relevant to the inspections.  The ISG also found that once inspectors resumed, foreign experts were hidden from the inspectors.

Frankly none of this sounds like a hill of beans.  Saddam didn’t want his experts going outside Iraq and talking to people he viewed as the enemy – not an unreasonable position after the UNSCOM spying debacle.  They had a meeting.  They weren’t totally transparent.  Let’s have a war.

Clare short was “her usual self”.  Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy “behaved honourably”.  France, Germany and Russia said “non”.  And it becomes increasing clear by page 430 that we’re really going to war on the technical grounds of “OK there has not been full compliance, but there has been some …but not enough because we can’t see inside Saddam’s mind”.   Tony gives Saddam another 7 days to sort this out and tells Blix again that the problem is interviews.  “In this regard I ended up having a rather troubling series of conversations with Hans Blix.  I said to him that we had to take the key people out of Iraq.  That was the only way they were going even remotely to dare being honest. “ 

Apart from the fact this seems to be inventing hoops that he knows Saddam wont jump through surely the point of the exercise is for Saddam, not his minions, to honest?  

He was reluctant.  They could be killed, he said, or their families tortured.  He didn’t feel he could take that responsibility.  I was a little exasperated.  If they’re going to kill them, I used to say, what does that say about Saddam and compliance with 1441?

If you can follow the logic of this you’re doing better than me. 

“Anyway in the end he relented”. 

So eventually they come up with a document with “five crucial tests” in it and Tony sells this idea to George.  “It would, especially on the interviews, have flushed out the regime thoroughly on what they were hiding and on whether they had any good faith”.  Tony tabled the five tests to the UN and Jacques Chirac perhaps realising that this is actually a very roundabout way of actually raising the bar on compliance or a very cleverly concocted excuse rejected them.

To Pear Shaped Iraq
                                                Inquiry Enquiry...

Peter Goldsmith resolves the legal issues.  Donald Rumsfeld says maybe Britain might not be able to join in.  Robin Cook resigns and it’s all very polite and Tony takes us back over his other “interventions” pointing out he acted without UN authority in Kosovo and Sierra Leone as though the situations were the same and red herrings are liberally scattered about.  Tony tells us it’s easy to make fun of George Bush’s view of the world.  Actually it isn’t.  It’s a bit like trying to satirise Laurel and Hardy.  One continually hits the problem of trying to make fun of something obviously hilarious already.  Analyzing George W is like dissecting a frog.  Few people are interested and millions of people die.  Tony then waxes lyrical about America, gets out the Road Map for Peace in the middle east and takes the Cabinet (minus Robin) through all the arguments again.  They are all supportive “apart from Clare Short”.

Derry Irvine we’re told tells them we could have probably have got another resolution without the French but does he tell them about the weapons experts Interviews caveats that it seems Tony Blair has now told us about in his memoires?  Of course he might have done but as the Cabinet Office won’t release the minutes ... I’ll make up the story that he didn’t.

Tony writes his speech to the House of Commons for the debate on 18th of March and tells us the arguments came easily and what they were.  After a lot of waffle he slips in that 3kg of VX from a rocket launcher would contaminate 0.2 sq km as we move back into repeated speech territory. 

Tony points out that he won the vote “handsomely” 412 to 149…. And then tells us he didn’t know how bad things would be…

Eventually we move on to a chapter about how things went pear shaped after the invasion.   Tony bemoans the Greek chorus and attempts to get the UK back on board … which he does eventually despite the best efforts of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.  There’s another speech printed in full.  There are some moans about media coverage.  Clare Short resigns.  Kofi Annan pulls his remaining hair out.  And Tony defends his style of sofa government “I wasn’t there during the Second World War or the Falklands, but if Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher used to do everything through formal Cabinet meetings, I would eat my proverbial hat.  It’s like any other walk of life.  You can’t take decisions by vast committees of people”. 

Then there’s another speech.  Tony tells us that the casualties from the initial invasion were low but not low enough again and there’s another dig at Clare Short.  Tony then talks about the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (OHRA).    As Tony says Reconstruction can’t happen in a violent environment so obviously things are a bit tense.  Al-Queda and Iran get blamed again and Tony tells us that what happened next was inevitable.  Tony tells us that towards the end of April “a million Shia pilgrims attended the main Shia festival in Karbala, something that would have been impossible under Saddam”.  Tony goes to Basra and for a while at least it all tickety-boo.

On page 451 Putin gets out of his pram and starts ranting about Chechnya

On page 452 Tony tells Jerry Bremner of the OHRA.  “Don’t hold back,” says Tony.  “If you need it, demand it.  I will back you up and I’m sure your president will too”…  which may go some way to explaining how Mr Bremner seems to become one of the most hated recurring characters in the Iraq Inquiry transcripts. 

The UN eventually passes resolution 1483 and everyone starts to become friends again. 

And then we move on to Andrew Gilligen… and the 45 minute claim.  Oh dear.  Reading about Kelly and the 45 minutes claim again is now so repetitive it starts to sound in my mind like …

Tony explains on page 453 that: “The claim turned out to be wrong.  Also, unknown to me, or to the Secretary of State, or indeed to the JIC, there had been internal Ministry of Defence Debate about it.  One of those taking part in the debate though not directly responsible for the dossier, was a Dr David Kelly, a Ministry of Defence intelligence expert of about twenty years experience

It’s worth quoting this paragraph in full if only to underline the number of times that Tony Blair goes on to claim that Dr David Kelly was not involved in the promulgation for the 45 minutes claim.  His line is clear.  Even if Dr Kelly was involved in the decision to include it he didn’t know and the JIC certainly didn’t know.  He now reminds us of what Gilligen said:  “What we’ve been told by one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier was that actually the government probably knew that that forty-five-minute figure was wrong even before it decided to put it inDowning Street, our source says, a week before publication ordered it to be sexed up to be made more exciting and ordered more facts to be discovered.

You’ll notice Blair has used some “”s … what it is that he’s edited out of the transcript is this bit [What this person says, is that a week before the publication date of the dossier, it was actually rather erm, a bland production. It didn't, the, the draft prepared for Mr Blair by the Intelligence.  Agencies actually didn't say very much more than was public knowledge already and erm,]. 

This may be for reasons of economy of space but there doesn’t seem to be much effort put towards narrative economy in the other 690 pages so … forgive me if I’m a bit cynical.  The removal of this section obscures the fact that the 45 minute claim, whoever machinated it, only mysteriously materialised during the final week of the dossier’s presentation.  That is to say even if Tony didn’t put it in himself or lean on someone to put it in it was for whatever reason very much a last minute addition.  It’s true Tony Blair and Number 10 may not have directly asked for this information to be put in but the fact to this day we seem no nearer the truth of how it did get there while the Chilcot Inquiry remains unpublished.  While no evidence proving guilt on behalf of the government was found by the Hutton Inquiry … it didn’t exactly explain what had gone on.  Anyway Tony gets quite angry during this bit.  Particularly when on page 454 Gilligen publishes his Mail on Sunday article pointing the finger directly at Alastair Campbell.  “The 45 minutes claim was not put in the dossier by anyone in Downing Street or anyone in government, but by the JIC,” says Tony.  The problem is that even if this is true the JIC generally meet in the Cabinet Office which is literally next door to Number 10.  Fans of Yes, Prime Minister will remember the infamous episode when Bernard locked the door between the Cabinet Office and Number 10 to prevent Sir Humprey’s machinations.  Life imitating art?  How can the JIC be separate from the government?

If was never clear if Dr Kelly, who though he admitted talking to Gilligen denied making the allegation, really did brief him in terms that justify the story,” says Tony.  And it never will be because Dr Kelly is dead.  One thing’s for certain…  “Relations between myself and the BBC never really recovered; and parts of the media were pretty off-limits after it

…Blair was now toxic.  Unfortunately Dr Kelly had also talked to Susan Watts at Newsnight.  “Her reports had been a lot milder and less inflammatory, though even those had the quite wrong allegation that there had been a dispute over the 45 minute claim”.  For Dr Kelly to claim to one journalist that there might be a problem with the 45 minute claim might be an accident.  Two seems like carelessness.  As Mr Blair says we will never know why Dr Kelly took his own life…

…what Mr Blair can shed light on is who was responsible for offering up Dr Kelly to the media and the select committee.  Step forward the MoD’s Kevin Tebbit and Sir David Omand Security and Intelligence Coordinator in the Cabinet Office to carry that can.

To MI6 goes Pear
                                              Shaped in Iraq...

To cheer us up Tony tells us about flying to the US to give a speech to Congress and in case we need more cheering up includes another speech in full.  Everyone applauded.  Funny how he spends so much time slagging off his foreign secretaries for becoming corrupted by the unending flattery they receive by being on the world stage but when it’s him himself he has a bit of an irony bypass.  Still, at least someone was happy somewhere.  Until David Kelly actually dies on page 459… that is.  Tony then instructs Charlie Falconer the Lord Chancellor to find someone of unimpeachable integrity to hold an inquiry.  Lord Hutton is selected and his reputation for unimpeachable integrity has yet to fully recover.   Tony repeats part of Hutton’s judgement.  Notably:

The 45-minutes claim was based on a report which was received by the SIS from a source [see note] which the Service regarded as reliable.  Therefore, whether or not at some time in the future the report on which the 45-minutes claim was based is shown to be unreliable, the allegation reported by Mr Gilligen on 29 May 2003 that the government probably knew that the 45-minutes claim was wrong before the government decided to put it in the dossier was an allegation which was unfounded.”

Note: this note originally said the single source was Mr Curveball ...Andrew Simon tells us this is wrong.  It is indeed - Curveball was responsible for the dodgy mobile lab claims (also single sourced).  Actually no one's quite sure who came up with the 45 minute claim.  The telegraph claimed it was Lieutenant-Colonel al-Dabbagh although there was a rumour it was a Jordanian Taxi driver.  There are some clues in the MI6 and JIC transcripts if you want to go through all the pieces yourselves... anyway this is what Chilcot is supposed to sort out.  Honestly although I did read the transcripts it was a while ago and I've lost the plot now...  probably only the almighty himself knows how the Inquiry keep on top of all the evidence ...if they do ...and if the almighty exists.

To MI6 goes Pear Shaped
                                            in Iraq...The problem is, of course, that even if it had been true there was only one source and the information is incorrectly contextualised to imply more than this and is presented in such a way as that even the meanest intelligence could not help but think a tad misleading.  Hutton continues that since the report was intended to be read by the public and parliament I do not consider that it was improper for Mr Scarlett and the JIC to take into account suggestions as to drafting made by 10 Downing Street and to adopt those suggestions if they were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC”.  The problem with this is Tony Blair’s statement a few pages earlier that “The 45 minutes claim was not put in the dossier by anyone in Downing Street or anyone in government, but by the JIC.”  This may be literally true but, of course, there isn’t really a distinction between the JIC and the Government and the Cabinet Office and the Government and the Civil Service and the Government and indeed Number 10 and the Government.  They are all part of the same thing – they are all the Government.  Also who exactly inserted the claim isn’t the issue.  The issue is …is the dossier going back and forward between the Cabinet Office and Number 10…?  Hutton seems to admit it is but purports there’s nothing wrong in this in principle because the report is for public consumption.  So the question is really …what exactly did Number 10 have to add to or remove from the report that improved its quality without affecting its content?  Hutton has said that there is nothing wrong in principle but this is some distance to saying there was nothing wrong in practice.

Hutton gives the BBC a thick ear.  But when Tony says “When I was his pupil Derry used to tell me there were two types of judge; those who made up their mind, but left loose ends, something for the losing side to cling to, something that expressed the judge’s own inner hesitation about making a clear decision; and those who made up their mind, and once of that view delivered the decision complete, unadulterated and unvarnished, with every allegation covered and every doubt answered.  Lord Hutton was the latter kind.”  ....I can only conclude he’s read a different report – although possibly the problem is that while Lord Hutton covered every allegation put to him he didn’t address all the doubts because his terms of reference were so very narrow.  More inquires were called for…

Anyway Alastair Campbell gets very cross having received lots of hate mail, “often with bloodstains on it” and Gavyn Davies and Gery Dyke resigned and the Daily Mail called it a whitewash.

Tony tells us on page 465 that “Yes, of course ORHA might have been done better on the reconstruction plans, but that wasn’t the problem.  We had enough money, effort and people to have rebuilt Iraq within a year of conflict.  What happened was that the security situation deteriorate it”.  And over the next few pages we relive this deterioration and its effect on moral “back home”.  “The defining moment came on 19 Augst in Baghdad.  A letter bomb at the UN HQ killed over twenty UN staff”.

Al-Qaeda and al-Zarqawi’s cTo George W...alling card?  The UN withdraw staff.  Abu Ghraib.  Al-Quaeda bomb the Samarra mosque (most hold Shir site in Iraq).  IEDs.  The Surge.  “In her recent book, The Surge, the American military historian Kimberly Kagan describes how over time al-Qaeda and and Iran began to work together.  We’ve been over this territory on this site so many times before that now all I can think is I’m sure al Qaeda should have a u in it.  There’s an increasingly rare humorous moment on page 470 when General Sir Richard Dannatt gives an interview to the Daily Mail saying we’ve reached the end of the line in Iraq and Gerry Adams tells Tony that “the IRA would never have had one of their Generals behaving like that”.  How he knows this I don’t know as the IRA and Sinn Fein were of course completely separate organisations.

Eventually we move on to the Charge of the Knights and Tony points out that now the UK/US forces have full UN backing so it’s all okay again… legally… and then we go back to body counts again followed as ever by a statement that “the aftermath was more bloody, more awful, more terrifying than anyone could have imagined” … in case counting the bodies sounds callous.  By the time we get to “Was it worth it” I found myself humming Paul Hardcastle’s “19”.  I wasn't really sure what was going on. 

Tony muses on de-Baathification saying that while it may have gone too far the political opinion at the time was it hadn’t gone far enough.  Tony praises Maliki and drones on about Sunni / Shir politics but doesn’t reach any radical conclusions and then goes back to musing how there were never any protests in Western nations against the evils of regimes like Saddam’s.  You can guess the rest.

After three chapters raking over the tangled burnt out car crash of the Iraq War we move back to domestic policy.  Tony tells us of his great achievements bringing in “top up” University fees (an idea stolen from America), more public private partnerships (an idea stolen from America), more competition in the NHS (an idea stolen from America), ASBOs and anti-social behaviour legislation (an idea stolen from America), BIDs (an idea stolen from America) and ID cards (an idea stolen from Europe) while mocking his adversaries for their lack of original thinking.

With Tony’s stated priorities being Education, Education and Education it was an easy sell for Roy Jenkins Chancellor of the University of Oxford and a host of other University Chancellors from the Russell Unaccountable Clique to tell Tony that they were going to immediately go bust if something wasn’t done immediately.  It is one of the great mysteries of the modern age that when Universities were elite institutions serving the few political opinion was hermetically sealed upon the view that they should be funded out of general taxation because they clearly benefited society as a whole but as soon as “Uni” was opened up to every lad and lass any pleb who wanted to go should be made to lose the grant you could live on and then find first £1000, then £3000 then £9000 a year.  Still they can now compete more on the global stage with American Universities in coming up with daft ideas like Critical Race Theory.  

We also follow the handover of power to Gordon Brown and the agreement whereby Tony will leave office so long as Gordon sticks rigidly to the legislative program he has laid out for him…. Which, of course, defeats the object of actually becoming Prime Minister …if you were to stick to such an absurd agreement.  Tony eventually admits this to himself and ruminates on the differences between being attacked and being hated.   Like Stalin Tony Blair spends a lot of time drawing up 5 year plans.  Where Tony’s writing really comes alive is in the internal monologues and soliloquies with himself over motivation.  Should he stay or should he go?  He seems to regard leaving as some sort of cowardice and feels that he has to stay out of some kind of moral duty.  The whole idea of if-you’re-not-enjoying-it-give-it-up seems to be viewed as somehow immoral by Tony and his social circle who clearly see themselves as so talented they cannot be replaced … maybe they are but if they are it does make me feel very thick indeed.  To them everything they do is important.  Perhaps this is why politics fascinates me – it’s the inverse of entertainment …where everything we do is basically unimportant.  Well… fairly unimportant.  He clearly has very little time for Ed Balls who he sees with others as wanting to drag Labour back to Old Labour from New Labour.  According to Tony this will cause the parties to reset to their old binary positions of left and right and the end result of this is that Labour will eventually lose to the Tories again and again and again. 

Tony is also somewhat rude about the public’s love of the NHS insinuating it is somehow irrational and deluded.  They money should follow the patient he thinks.  Tony’s view is that without an internal market public services can never operate efficiently and therefore the delivery of services can only spiral in cost and inefficiency.  He basically doesn’t believe socialism can work and sees himself as everyone does these days as a “progressive”.  The problem is this raises the existential question – if it isn’t socialist what is the Labour party for?  There isn’t an answer.  What Tony doesn't seem to understand is that ... as Bevan would say the NHS is to some extent an act of faith.  Decades of politicians have told us we can't afford it for so many reasons I can't remember them all ... but ... but ...but ... conversely at the same time Tony attacks people for not having faith in New Labour but just seeing it as a "clever way to win".  And of course eventually he goes off to form his own faith foundation so ... anyway...

On page 516 Tony ponders on what he regards as one of his worst decisions in power – Freedom of Information legislation.  “Freedom of Information.  Three harmless words, I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders.  You idiot.  You naïve , foolish, irresponsible nincompoop.  There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate.  I quake at the imbecility of it.  Once I appreciated the full enormity of the blunder, I used to say – more than little unfairly – to any civil servant who would listen.  Where was Sir Humphrey when I needed him?  We had legislated in the first throes of power.  How could you, knowing what you know, have allowed us to do such a thing so utterly undermining of sensible government?”

The answer is, of course, that the legislation isn’t actually a problem for Sir Humphrey but for the elected politicians like Jim Hacker who relied on the lack of freedom of information to allow the civil service to hide their worst mistakes.  In return this gave senior civil servants effective power to blackmail Ministers and Prime Ministers using the thousands of skeletons that ended up hidden in cupboards.  Freedom of Information hasn’t actually made the Civil Service less powerful just more transparent so Sir Humphrey doesn’t really care.  It’s just one card he doesn’t have in the pack any more.  Instead he has others like “and how will that look when someone puts in an FOI”?  In a hilarious and breathtaking display of how removed from reality a politician can be Tony then tells us that FOI would be okay if it wasn’t used by journalists just the public.  In other words he doesn’t mind people having information – the problem is its dissemination. 

We then move towards and through the 2005 election campaign.  Tony aware that he is starting to be very toxic has decided this should be a joint Gordon Brown / Tony Blair campaign with all the hilarity that can ensue from that.  Suffering from a slipped disk and in much pain Tony tells us that it’s okay to be ill but not visibly in and gives disabled politicians the following tips.  “Back pain is awful, but it is invisible.  Visible illness is at all costs to be avoided, especially with our media.  Broken limbs are OK, but anything disfiguring and, before you know it, Quasimodo is running for office.  Not good.”

Ed Balls and his belief that the public want more taxation become running themes of ire.  Indeed Mr Balls gets quite a bashing – continually accused with Gordon of obstructing policy.  Tony notes on the increase in National Insurance instead of Income Tax that “we had kept the promise [not to increase Income Tax] but a little disingenuously” in order to “pay for the NHS”.  This leads to the suspicion that Gordon will increase National Insurance again.  Then the Attorney General’s legal advice on the Iraq War leaks to the Daily Mail.  “The result was the final 10 days of the campaign were virtually submerged in Iraq”.

We then follow Tony through various summits and international meetings.  He talks about the EU and how we need it to avoid being bullied by power blocks that are even bigger and tries to explain why Turkey is not yet a member.  “The point was not that EU leaders were anti-Muslim, though among the population no doubt that sentiment was present”.  There’s endless arguments about rebates and how much we should be paying into the EU and the sacred cow that is the EU rebate negotiated by Mrs Thatcher.  Eventually Tony resolves all these issues by not answering the phone to Gordon. 

We then go onto the Olympic bid and Tessa Jowell gets many brownie points as do Seb Coe and David Beckham.   There are some snide remarks about the closeness of Ken Livingstone to the Russian delegation.  “He didn’t give details but I thought I better not ask”.  Princess Anne gets a bit of a bashing for refusing to call Mrs Blair by her first name.  And the boot is put in Prince Phillip too for good measure.  But in an obsequious still-believe-in-them way.  Later on at the G8 Tony remarks on the Queen giving people “the look” if they reciprocated too much familiarity.  Bono and Geldof put in an appearance.  Tony bemoans the people who complain about the G8 being undemocratic who put the cost of hosting it up by protesting.  

There’s lots of negotiations about climate change and then 7/7 happens and Tony starts complaining that he can’t lock people up for 90 days without trial without people complaining. 

When Lord Hoffmann had described the anti-terror laws as more of a threat to the country than the terrorists I just couldn’t believe it”.  Tony tells us that this problem was straightforward  “Frequently we would want to wait until evidence of terrorism was collated,, but were also afraid of waiting too long in case something unexpected happened, the plot came to fruition or we missed it.  With suspects who were foreign nationals, and most were, I conceived of offering them a choice: leave the country or stay in custody.  This both fell foul of the usual principles of habeas corpus and also discriminated between foreign and UK nationals, so it was a problem legally but born of a real-life security conundrum”.

Then we move onto Academies.  “When the Dispatches programme on Channel 4 did a covert programme on the new Doncaster Academy, with footage of parents complaining that their kid had been threatened with expulsion if he didn’t turn up to school on time, I knew we were really getting somewhere.  Of course, the programme-makers thought people would be outraged by such draconian discipline, whereas naturally the other parents were delighted”.  Gordon gets criticised again for dragging his feet.  And to brighten things up John Prescott has an affair which Tony blames on politicians having to be too responsible and do boring things all the time … quickly adding that that’s not an excuse.

There’s another G8 and Tony upsets the Labour PLP by supporting Israel instead of Hezbollah.  To rub salt in the wound Bush does his “Yo Blair!” thing.  Tony’s complete ignorance of the reality of the emotional reality of the politics of the region is probably best summed up in the line “So what was holding peace back?  …A dispute about the 1967 borders or land swaps between the Israelis and Palestinians?”  Well, quite.  Why would anyone get wound up over that?  To be honest as the book drags towards its conclusion the reader starts to feel as impatient as Gordon Brown ... as if to say "please just go now".  Even after the book has ended there's a postscript essay on the financial crisis.  And I thought I was a bore...

After that well, to borrow a phrase from Tony, you can guess.  Tony seems to spend an awful long time going.  It takes about three chapters for him to describe the handover to Gordon and the farcical process of him having to pretend he’s not going and everyone else having to pretend to believe or not believe he’s going.   I won’t retell it suffice to say Tony and Gordon push the boundaries of each other’s sanity.

To AV deal or no

We go over the cash for peerages scandal that never came to anything.  “There are lots of folk who give to charity and may anticipate that they will get an honour of some sort, and they probably will.  But you can’t stipulate it; and they cannot donate on a promise they will get it.”  Quite right.  I’ve got a standing order for Oxfam and am expecting to be elevated to the upper chamber any moment.   Might one go so far as to state that whole system is a actually poisonous farce of patronage and corruption that should be replaced with an elected second chamber?

Afghanistan rumbles on.  On page 621 Tony ponders on his drink problems.  “I was definitely at the outer limit.  Stiff whisky or GandT before dinner, couple of glasses of wine or even half a bottle with it.  So not excessively excessive”.  We believe you Tony.  You keep telling yourself that.  Terror laws.  DNA. Proceeds of Crime Act.  Tony now tries to get everything in that he skipped out in the previous 631 pages… and finally I fell into a deep sleep…

But privilege though it is, you become aware over time of the consequences of each decision good and bad.  This is especially true when the decisions lead directly to life or death.  I remember during Kosovo, when by mistake the allied forces bombed a civilian convoy in which children died.  From that moment, I think, the sadness settled on me. …In Iraq we forget the children that died under Saddam and would have continued to do die had he remained in power.  But it doesn’t remove the thought that there are those who would have lived had we not taken the military action to be rid of him.   That thought never leaves you; and in the quiet of the night it comes back insistently and with force.

Our initial interpretation of the transcripts (entirely filmed in Xtranormal) can be found
here which is more than you can say for Xtranormal (see here) ...although someone seems now to have bought Xtranormal and it has risen Lazarus like from dead ... but I dont think I'll be rushing to use it again.   Fortunately all the old Pear Shaped Iraq Inquiry Animations still exist on Youtube - and we have now gone through the painstaking tast of re-editing the Youtube videos into the old html.  Although for some reason people only ever watched the videos on Xtranormal...

Here's the usual resume of what we've covered so far in previous articles:

Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 1 Covers public evidence from Christopher Meyer, Jeremy Greenstock, Tim Dowse, Edward Chaplin, Sir David Manning, Sir William Patey, Vice Admiral Charles Style, General Sir John Reith, Alistair Campbell, Lieutenant General Sir Richard Shirreff and Geoff Hoon
Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 2 Covers public evidence from Jonathan Powell, Lord Goldsmith, Margaret Beckett, John Hutton, Sir Kevin Tebbit, General the Lord Walker of Aldringham, Clare Short, Ann Clwyd, Gordon Brown and endless analysis of what Jaques Chirac meant without asking him.
Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 3 Covers public evidence from Douglas Alexander, David Miliband, Cathy Adams,  Sir John Holmes, Sir Jonathan Cunliffe, Mark Etherington CBE and Lord Boateng.
Pear Shaped Iraq_Enquiry_Enquiry Page 4 Covers public evidence from Carne Ross, Lt Gen Sir James Dutton KCB CBE, Stephen White, Baroness Elizabeth Manningham-Buller, Sir Peter Spencer KCB, Lord Prescott, Tony Blair (again) and Jack Straw.  It also covers some ludicrous conspiracy theories.
Most of the first 4 pages are brief commentary with the transcripts re-edited in Xtranormal format (the videos are on Youtube).  For the next article we tried a different approach with a mixture of commentary, transcripts and Xtranormal animation...
MI6 goes Pear Shaped Iraq Covers SIS private evidence from MI6 officers SIS1, SIS2, SIS3,SIS4, SIS5 and SIS6 and C (Sir Richard Dearlove).  The Iraq Inquiry have so far interviewed (as far as I can figure out) at least 12 members of MI6. SIS1, SIS2, SIS3,SIS4, SIS5 and SIS6 have all had their transcripts published in some form whereas statements have been made that SIS8, SIS9 and SIS11’s transcripts will never be published due to the fact that “The Committee has concluded, in line with its Protocols, that it would not be possible to redact and publish the transcript without rendering it unintelligible”. Which leaves open the question of what’s happened to SIS7, SIS10 and SIS12’s testimony and will we ever see a transcript because the inquiry has not made a statement that we wont…?
Reconstruction goes Pear Shaped in Iraq Covers the reconstruction effort after the invasion and the private evidence of Edward Chaplin CMG OBE, The Hon Dominic Asquith CMG and Christopher Prentice CMG, HM Ambassadors to Iraq (2004 – 2009 collectively) and DFID and FCO functionaries JOHN TUCKNOTT, JONNY BAXTER, RICHARD JONES, ROB TINLINE, KATHLEEN REID, LINDY CAMERON, SIMON COLLIS, JAMES TANSLEY and TIM FOY
Kurdistan Goes Pear Shaped With Emma Sky - Emma Sky was sent to the US controlled region of Kirkuk in Kurdistan by the USA who secured her services from the British Council.  She maintains she was acting as effectively as a private citizen (not an employee of the British Government) at the time which is why she has a page entirely to herself.
The JIC goes Pear Shaped in Iraq - Sir John Scarlett and Julian Miller (heads of the JIC during the run up to the invasion) and Sir William Erhman and Tim Dowse (heads of of the JIC after the invasion of Iraq in 2003) discuss the actual evidence or lack of it for the claims within the two dossiers and illuminate us as the JIC intelligence QC processes in what is widely regarded as one of the most boring pages on the internet.
Defence Intelligence goes Pear Shaped - Martin Howard the head of the DIS is interviewed by the inquiry both in public and in private. This page is extremely tedious.
GCHQ goes Pear Shaped - Sir David Pepper tells us what went on at GCHQ after the war and no one tells us what went on at GCHQ in the run-up to the war
Major General Michael Laurie goes Pear Shaped - More fun from the DIS
Major General Tim Tyler goes Pear Shaped - A view of the Major General's view as Deputy Commander Iraq Survey Group and a review of Decision Points insofar as it relates to the Tony Blair/George W relationship
Disaster Points - A read of George W's Autobiography

By the way if you cant see the inline videos properly you're probably using the 64 bit version of Windows Explorer 9.  Use a 32 bit version - you can download off the Microsoft website ...although it might just work now.  Or just use a browser that isn't entirely composed of old ActiveX controls and actually uses the HTML standards because its not built by egomaniacs.  You can also view all the animations on this Youtube page if that's easier.  As stated in the previous article this page is nonsense.  If you want a sensible analysis instead try the Iraq Inquiry Digest

That said there are NO inline animations in this page because I couldn't be bothered to struggle with GoAnimate.  We've gone for inapporopriate images instead.  I may insert some animations at a later date.  If I can be arsed..


Photo Credits
Gordon Brown and Harold Wilson and Tessa Jowell  - National Archives and Number 10
Cherie Blair - Snowman Radio
Rupert Murdoch - Eva Rinaldi
Paul Keating - Idpercy
Princess Diana's flowers - Maxwell Hamilton
Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson - World Ecconomic Forum
Putin and Blair - stolen from the Kremlin
Kofi Annan - US Mission in Geneva
Andrew Gilligen - Willow4
Susan Watts - Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization
   Most are freebies from the US Army and Government
but some have been stolen off the internet and wikipedia
in the public interest