Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Iraq Enquiry: Clare Short

At the Chilcott Enquiry today, Clare Short was amazing. If only all politicians were as honest, opinionated and candid. Short has some real class. It was good to watch an MP with style.

As International Development Secretary in 2003, Short reluctantly voted in favour of the war. But she resigned in May that year; she felt Tony Blair had broken the promise he had given her over securing international support for post-war reconstruction of Iraq. Her testimony today strengthens the feeling that the decision to go to war with Iraq was forced through the Cabinet by Bliar.

Sir John Chilcott cross-examined Short. No-one else who's appeared before the Enquiry has been treated in that way, particularly Bliar; after a jumpy start, he was allowed to get into his comfortable, rhetorical stride, complete with practised hand-gestures .
What does this tell us about Chilcott's imperative?

To some, Short is a trouble-maker, a crank whose evidence should be taken with a pinch of salt. Her hesitation over resigning in 2003, and her subsequent hostility to Bliar, may tempt us to interpret her anger over the war as bitterness. But she didn't use the Enquiry merely as a self-serving platform. She was asked challenging questions, and was entitled - indeed, obliged - to respond from her own point of view.

Nor did she mince her words in any attempt to limit damage to those involved in the decisions leading to war - including herself. Her disagreement with the recall of events by other members of the Cabinet does not confirm her as a rogue, or a loose cannon to be lampooned. She's flawed, she's not a saint, but she's honest.

I would like to see Bliar recalled to the Enquiry once more evidence has been given, further knowledge and views gleaned and recorded. I'd also like to see him examined with the degree of enthusiasm afforded Clare Short.

And oh to have been able to hear Robin Cook's evidence.

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