Monday, June 25, 2012

Blair - "you know I'll never win this argument..."

Campbell reveals: Blair did hide Iraq War legal advice

Former PM rejects spin doctor's claim that Attorney General's doubts kept from Cabinet

James Cusick
Monday 25 June 2012
Tony Blair dismissed his former spin doctor's account of what his Cabinet was told about the Iraq War's legality as "absolutely not true" yesterday.

In the latest volume of his diaries, Alastair Campbell claims Lord Goldsmith, then Attorney General, was prevented in 2002 from telling the Cabinet about his "doubts" on the legal basis for war.

But in an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, Mr Blair denied he had intervened to stop Lord Goldsmith giving the Cabinet the "reality" of the legal position Britain faced if it went to war against Saddam Hussein's regime without the backing of the United Nations.

According to Mr Campbell's diaries, Mr Blair feared any nuanced evaluation would give too much ammunition to the Cabinet's leading anti-war critics, Robin Cook and Clare Short.

The issue of the Iraq War's legality has continued to hound Mr Blair since he left Downing Street in 2007. Following a story in yesterday's Independent on Sunday which claimed Mr Blair had "misled" the Cabinet, the former Prime Minister told the BBC, "People like The Independent – you know I'll never win this argument with them over Iraq."

However Mr Campbell's account chimes with much of the detail that Lord Goldsmith gave the Chilcot Inquiry in 2010. In his written testimony, the Cabinet's former senior legal adviser said he had been kept out of the loop during key meetings in late 2002. He said his legal advice on UN negotiating tactics "was not sought".

Other documents released to the inquiry showed Lord Goldsmith was continuing to warn about the legal consequences of invading Iraq without fresh UN authority right up to the beginning of February 2003.

According to the Campbell diaries: "TB [Tony Blair] also made it clear he did not particularly want Goldsmith to launch a detailed discussion at Cabinet ... With the mood as it was with Robin [Cook] and Clare [Short]... he knew if there was any nuance at all, they would be straight out saying the advice was that it was not legal, the AG [attorney general] was casting doubt on the war. Peter Goldsmith was clear that he was casting doubt in some circumstances and if Cabinet had to approve the policy of going to war, he had to be able to put the reality to them."

Mr Blair told the BBC: "The notion that the Cabinet never discussed this issue is absurd".

Some MPs, including the former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, have demanded that Sir John Chilcot reconvene a special session of his inquiry to re-examine the accounts given by Mr Blair, Mr Campbell and Lord Goldsmith.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Alastair Campbell - Countdown to Iraq - coming soon

(The publication of this last part of Alastair Campbell's diaries was originally expected to have taken place at the end of last year. Whether or not the delays currently being experienced by the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry have also affected this release remains to be seen.)

Alastair Campbell Releases The Campbell Diaries: Volume IV with The Mile End Group

On 20 June, 2012, the Mile End Group will be hosting the official launch of The Burden of Power: Volume 4: Countdown to Iraq; the fourth and final volume of Alastair Campbell’s highly revealing and insightful diaries. Alastair Campbell will be appearing at Queen Mary University of London in conversation with John Rentoul, chief political commentator for the Independent on Sunday and visiting professor at Queen Mary, from 6.30 pm. A drinks reception will follow.

Volume Four of the Campbell Diaries, which begins on 11 September, 2001, and ends with Campbell leaving office, covers the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the continued pursuit of peace in Northern Ireland, and the internal power struggles within the New Labour government. It is perhaps the most highly anticipated volume, dealing with Tony Blair’s most controversial decisions, and written contemporaneously by one of the best-placed political diarists in recent history.

As Blair’s Chief Press Secretary and Official Spokesman, and later Director of Communications and Strategy, Alastair Campbell is able to offer tremendous insight into the inner workings of New Labour at the highest level. His appearance at the Mile End Group also represents the launch of an incredible source for contemporary historians; having previously appeared at Queen Mary's New Labour in Government undergraduate course, the Mile End Group is delighted to welcome Campbell back to the university.

To apply for tickets, please email providing your full name and organization. Tickets are extremely limited. Further details regarding the event will be sent to successful applicants via email a week beforehand.