More than 30 senior politicians and officials including former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair are set to be heavily criticised in a “devastating” official report into the Iraq War. Last week, Sir John Chilcot, the panel’s chairman, said that no more than 150 politicians and officials would be criticised in the final report but he declined to give an exact number.
However, one Sunday newspaper said “approximately 30” people have been sent letters by the inquiry’s panel chaired, warning them they are likely to be criticised. The Mail on Sunday reported that the number could also include Jack Straw, who was the foreign secretary between 2001 and 2006, before, during and after the war in 2003.
Other figures from the Labour Government who could face criticism were Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s communications director, Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff , and Geoff Hoon, a former defence secretary.
Number 10 sources said they expected the report to be a “devastating” indictment of the Blair Government and large sections of the Whitehall establishment. Some 7,000 will be published including 200 minutes from Cabinet meetings and 30 Blair/Bush notes. The inquiry was still working through a “tail of declassification”.
One source said that Mr Blair’s words “will be published word for word”. The source said: “There will be redactions where appropriate but it will be quite clear to see what he said and what he meant. “Bush’s comments will be less detailed but that is necessary as it is not up to Britain to publish details of what a US President says.”
Last month Mr Straw suggested that criticism of the delays to the Chilcot inquiry could lead to the panel producing conclusions that were “more starkly drawn than the evidence”. Mr Straw was also branded a “liar” in the House of Commons as he justified Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War.
Mr Straw was met with a volley of abuse from Respect MP George Galloway when he was discussing talks with the UN Security Council.
He intervened during a speech by Labour MP Paul Flynn to made clear “for the avoidance of doubt” that in November 2002 the “whole of the United Nations Security Council” judged “that there was a threat to international peace and security from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction”.
As Mr Straw sat down Mr Galloway shouted at Mr Straw “You are lying”. Mr Flynn added that it was “because they were fooled”, adding that Mr Straw’s intervention was “contemptible”. A spokesman for Mr Blair has said:
“We have repeatedly said that it is not true Tony Blair has caused a delay in report's publication. It is an independent inquiry and it should be allowed to proceed with its work.”
By Christopher Hope