Tony Blair, Iraq and war crimes

Keeping an eye on the Iraq inquiry

I have to hold my hand up and confess that I haven't been keeping an eye on the independent Iraq inquiry, set up by Gordon Brown and chaired by Sir John Chilcot, despite having opposed the Iraq war since 2002 and obsessively followed every twist and turn of Hutton, Butler et al.

So imagine my surprise to see Seumas Milne, in his Guardian column, referring to the anti-war "climate that saw parents of soldiers killed in Iraq tell the official inquiry on Tuesday they want to see Blair indicted as a war criminal".

Did they? How had I missed this, I wondered? I was aware that Tony Blair had been publicly snubbed by a bereaved father who accused him of having "blood on his hands" at a reception last Sunday, following the service at St Paul's to commemorate the Iraq war dead.

But, on Tuesday, a group of bereaved parents, it seems, went further. Here is the BBC's online report:

At the meeting, Sir John invited the first comments from family members of those Britons killed in Iraq.

Colin Mildinhall, whose 26-year-old son, Tom, a member of the Queen's Dragoon Guards, was killed in Basra in 2006, said his prime concern was the legality of the Iraq war.

"The country was badly let down and lied to," he said.

Flt Lt Paul Pardoel was killed in the crash of an RAF Hercules in January 2005.

His widow, Kellie Merritt, asked the committee whether there would be an examination of the preparations for the Iraq invasion.

Roger Bacon, whose son Major Matthew Bacon was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2005, said: "This was an illegal war, and there is still a great deal of anger. It showed today.

"The anger was directed at Tony Blair for taking us into this mess."

His sentiments were echoed by Deirdre Gover, the mother of 30-year-old Kristian, who died in a helicopter accident in 2004.

She said: "Tony Blair deceived us on weapons of mass destruction. He should be held responsible for the conflict. He lied to his cabinet, to his government, to parliament and to us."

Strong words. But will Teflon Tony -- who, not surprisingly, wanted the inquiry to be held in private -- ever be held responsible for the Iraq imbroglio? Or will he survive the Chilcot-led inquiry as well, as he goes on to become the first president of Europe?

Watch this space.

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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In the race to be France's next president, keep an eye on Arnaud Montebourg

Today's Morning Call. 

Good morning. As far as the Brexit talks are concerned, the least important voters are here in Britain. Whether UK plc gets a decent Brexit deal depends a lot more on who occupies the big jobs across Europe, and how stable they feel in doing so.

The far-right Freedom Party in Austria may have been repudiated at the presidential level but they still retain an interest in the legislative elections (due to be held by 2018). Both Lega Nord and Five Star in Italy will hope to emerge as the governing party at the next Italian election.

Some Conservative MPs are hoping for a clean sweep for the Eurosceptic right, the better to bring the whole EU down, while others believe that the more vulnerable the EU is, the better a deal Britain will get. The reality is that a European Union fearing it is in an advanced state of decay will be less inclined, not more, to give Britain a good deal. The stronger the EU is, the better for Brexit Britain, because the less attractive the exit door looks, the less of an incentive to make an example of the UK among the EU27.

That’s one of the many forces at work in next year’s French presidential election, which yesterday saw the entry of Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, into the race to be the Socialist Party’s candidate.

Though his star has fallen somewhat among the general public from the days when his opposition to halal supermarkets as mayor of Evry, and his anti-Roma statements as interior minister made him one of the most popular politicians in France, a Valls candidacy, while unlikely to translate to a finish in the top two for the Socialists could peel votes away from Marine Le Pen, potentially allowing Emanuel Macron to sneak into second place.

But it’s an open question whether he will get that far. The name to remember is Arnaud Montebourg, the former minister who quit Francois Hollande’s government over its right turn in 2014. Although as  Anne-Sylvaine Chassany reports, analysts believe the Socialist party rank-and-file has moved right since Valls finished fifth out of sixth in the last primary, Montebourg’s appeal to the party’s left flank gives him a strong chance.

Does that mean it’s time to pop the champagne on the French right? Monteburg may be able to take some votes from the leftist independent, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and might do some indirect damage to the French Thatcherite Francois Fillon. His supporters will hope that his leftist economics will peel away supporters of Le Pen, too.

One thing is certain, however: while the chances of a final run-off between Le Pen and Fillon are still high,  Hollande’s resignation means that it is no longer certain that the centre and the left will not make it to that final round.

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

The government began its case at the Supreme Court yesterday, telling justices that the creation of the European Communities Act, which incorporates the European treaties into British law automatically, was designed not to create rights but to expedite the implementation of treaties, created through prerogative power. The government is arguing that Parliament, through silence, has accepted that all areas not defined as within its scope as prerogative powers. David Allen Green gives his verdict over at the FT.

MO’MENTUM, MO’PROBLEMS

The continuing acrimony in Momentum has once again burst out into the open after a fractious meeting to set the organisation’s rules and procedures, Jim Waterson reports over at BuzzFeed.  Jon Lansman, the organisation’s founder, still owns the data and has the ability to shut down the entire group, should he chose to do so, something he is being urged to do by allies. I explain the origins of the crisis here.

STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE  BEFORE

Italy’s oldest bank, Monte Paschi, may need a state bailout after its recapitalisation plan was thrown into doubt following Matteo Renzi’s resignation. Italy’s nervous bankers will wait to see if  €1bn of funds from a Qatari investment grouping will be forthcoming now that Renzi has left the scene.

BOOM BOOM

Strong growth in the services sector puts Britain on course to be the highest growing economy in the G7. But Mark Carney has warned that the “lost decade” of wage growth and the unease from the losers from globalisation must be tackled to head off the growing tide of “isolation and detachment”.

THE REPLACEMENTS

David Lidington will stand in for Theresa May, who is abroad, this week at Prime Ministers’ Questions. Emily Thornberry will stand in for Jeremy Corbyn.

QUIT PICKING ON ME!

Boris Johnson has asked Theresa May to get her speechwriters and other ministers to stop making jokes at his expense, Sam Coates reports in the Times. The gags are hurting Britain’s diplomatic standing, the Foreign Secretary argues.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas! And to help you on your way, here’s Anna’s top 10 recommendations for Christmassy soundtracks.

MUST READS

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Why I’m concerned about people’s “very real concerns” on migration

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Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.