Blair on Iraq: "Happy to go through it all again"

I'm ready to face inquiry, says Blair

Tony Blair has emerged on CNN to make his first public comments on the Iraq inquiry since it opened last week.

He insists he's ready to face scrutiny:

I've been through these issues many, many times over the past few years and I'm very happy to go through them again.

To which we can only reply: "So are we, Tony, so are we."

Unsurprisingly, Blair denies the Mail on Sunday's exclusive report that Lord Goldsmith wrote to him in July 2002 warning that removing Saddam Hussein from power would be illegal.

He also insists that he does not feel "betrayed" by the former US ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, who told the inquiry that Blair's position on regime change "tightened" after the 2002 meeting at Bush's Crawford ranch.

Blair ends, amusingly, by misquoting President Truman:

I think it was one of your presidents that once said, "If you can't stand the heat don't come into the kitchen", and that's my view of politics.

If Chilcot does his job (and I remain he confident he will), Blair will be wishing by the end that he was out of the kitchen.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Italian PM Matteo Renzi resigns after referendum No vote

Europe's right-wing populists cheered the result. 

Italy's centrist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was forced to resign late on Sunday after he lost a referendum on constitutional change.

With most ballots counted, 60 per cent of Italians voted No to change, according to the BBC. The turn out was nearly 70 per cent. 

Voters were asked whether they backed a reform to Italy's complex political system, but right-wing populists have interpreted the referendum as a wider poll on the direction of the country.

Before the result, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage tweeted: "Hope the exit polls in Italy are right. This vote looks to me to be more about the Euro than constitutional change."

The leader of France's far-right Front National, Marine Le Pen, tweeted "bravo" to her Eurosceptic "friend" Matteo Salvini, a politician who campaigned for the No vote. She described the referendum result as a "thirst for liberty". 

In his resignation speech, Renzi told reporters he took responsibility for the outcome and added "good luck to us all". 

Since gaining office in 2014, Renzi has been a reformist politician. He introduced same-sex civil unions, made employment laws more flexible and abolished small taxes, and was known by some as "Europe's last Blairite".

However, his proposed constitutional reforms divided opinion even among liberals, because of the way they removed certain checks and balances and handed increased power to the government.

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.