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Saturday, 6 March 2010

Gordon Brown at the Chilcot enquiry

His colleague, a former Foreign Secretary, a fellow Scot, a man of penetrating intelligence, was prepared to resign from the Cabinet, placing his entire career at risk, yet Gordon Brown has no real recollection of the nature and intensity of Cook's doubts over the Iraq intelligence.

Sir Roderic Lyne, referring to Robin Cook's doubts over the way the intelligence was being interpreted, and his actual challenge to it in Cabinet, asks Gordon Brown if he was aware at the time of his concerns, and had Cook discussed them with him. Brown tries to deflect this by referring to Robin Cook's views on the no-fly zone, but Sir Roderic persists -

SIR RODERIC: He had actually queried the intelligence too. .

BROWN: I - I do not recall a conversation with, eh, wi-wi-with Robin about the intelligence - he may have mentioned that at - at the Cabinet - I cannot recall that.

Brown's style, as revealed repeatedly at PMs Questions in the Commons and in interviews is that he is hesitant and stammers when under pressure or patently avoiding difficult questions, but is confident, articulate and free of hesitation when he is on familiar, highly prepared ground. In poker terms, his stammer is a tell, something that reveals when a person is, at best, bluffing and being economical with the truth, and at worst, lying in their teeth.

The idea that a man of Cook's stature could have challenged the intelligence upon which the decision to go to war rested in Cabinet - a veritable bombshell dropped into the discussion at a critical moment - and that Brown would not have remembered such an intervention is beyond belief.


SIR RODERIC: ... would I be right in understanding that you were briefed on the terms in which Mr. Blair had pledged the UK's support to President Bush in the first half of 2002?

BROWN: Uh-I believed, right up to the last moment, we - Britain - were trying to get a diplomatic solution, so I'm not sure that I accept the premise of you-your-your question.

SIR RODERIC: Well, I'm referring to the evidence we've been given by a number of people - Mr. Blair himself - Alistair Campbell, and so on - encapsulating, you said you didn't see the correspondence between Mr.Blair and President Bush - but what I'm trying to understand is whether you, as a senior member of the Cabinet understood the gist of what he was saying to President Bush?

BROWN: I think all of us knew what the stakes were - er, that we had to make the diplomatic process work - er, or, eh, there was a danger that we would be at war with-with Iraq. But our efforts - right until the last minute - eh, the efforts of the whole government, in my view, were to try to make a diplomatic solution work. And even in that last weekend, where I talked in detail to Tony Blair, and was working very closely with him, we were trying to see if we could get some of the countries who had indicated that they would support no action under any circumstances to change their position, Eh, so, em, I would say that the decision was made only after the diplomatic eh course was fully exhausted.

But as we've heard from a number of witnesses, we had told the White House privately, in the first half of 2002, that if we couldn't - couldn't make the diplomatic - which was obviously the preferred route for both us and them - couldn't get a peaceful resolution of this of this issue, that we would stand with them in - ah - taking firmer action.

BROWN: Well, we had to prepare for war, as I said, because of, eh, from June, we were in - the Treasury and I was, eh, looking at options that were available to us - but I still insist to you that at every point in that eh, year our first priority was to get a diplomatic solution.

Sir Roderic politely dismisses this fog of obfuscation and evasion of the question, and gently and courteously persists.

SIR RODERIC: No, I think that's completely clear - the question I'm asking is whether the Prime Minister of the day had told you, effectively, eh, what he had told President Bush?

BROWN: We knew that the options available to us included, eh, going to - to war. We knew also, however, eh, that the best chance of peace and the international community working to best effect, was the diplomatic route, and I still hold to the position that eh, (forced grin) I think you're trying to move me from ... that, eh, the final decision ...

SIR RODERIC: No, no - I'm just asking merely for a sort of yes or no answer as to whether he told you what he told President Bush?

Sir Roderic was quite evidently trying to contain his impatience at the evasions by this time, but it was in vain.

I know what my conclusion was from this sad little exchange. He knew, of course he knew - of course he was told - but his political instinct, the remains of his wildly wavering moral compass and dim memories of his childhood in the manse deterred him from lying outright.

Brown, like all the survivors of that values-free Cabinet, is caught between the need to defend the war and his part in it, and his desperate desire to distance himself from his former colleague and leader, the disgraced Blair.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when once we practise to deceive ...

And so it goes on, on the containment paper, on the key question of whether Iraq was a threat in March 2003. I don't want the Tories or Cameron's millionaires, but we cannot have the country led by this man and his partners in the crime of Iraq any longer.

Thank God, Scotland has a real choice. We must free ourselves of these people.


  1. Thank you for coming back on a regular basis. The most thoughtful blog in Scotland.