Ed Miliband speaks at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth on March 21, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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The Iraq inquiry is an opportunity for Miliband

He must use its publication to remind voters of how he has learned from the mistakes of New Labour. 

The agreement reached between the government and the Iraq inquiry over the inclusion of details of Tony Blair's conversations with George Bush should clear the way for its publication before the end of the year. Negotiations will now begin on exactly which "gists and quotes" can be released from the 25 notes and 130 records of discussions between the two leaders.

Here's the statement from the inquiry website: 

On 28 May 2014 Sir John Chilcot wrote to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, to record his pleasure that agreement had been reached on the principles that will underpin disclosure of material from Cabinet-level discussions and communications between the UK Prime Minister and the President of the United States.  These documents have raised difficult issues of long-standing principle.

Agreement had already been reached on the details of what the Inquiry will publish in relation to more than 200 Cabinet and Cabinet Committee meetings. 

Detailed consideration of gists and quotes requested by the Inquiry from communications between the UK Prime Minister and the President of the United States has now begun.  It is not yet clear how long that will take but the Inquiry and the Government should work to complete the task as soon as possible.

Once agreement has been reached, the next phase of the Maxwellisation process can begin.  That process must be completed before the Inquiry's report can be finalised and sent to the Prime Minister

The Inquiry intends to submit its report to the Prime Minister as soon as possible. 

The inquiry has long been viewed as a "minefield" for Labour ahead of the general election as old wounds over the war are reopened (a significant number of the shadow cabinet voted in favour of it). But it is also a political opportunity for Ed Miliband. Since winning the Labour leadership on an anti-war platform, Miliband has said little about the conflict and about foreign policy in general (not making a single set-piece speech on the subject). Many in the party were surprised when a long-promised "intervention" to mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion did not materialise. 

For this reason, the publication of the report will be an important opportunity for him to remind voters, in particular former Lib Dems (whom Clegg will use the inquiry to try and win back), of his opposition to the war and to distance himself once more from the failures of New Labour. Successful political parties learn from their mistakes and there were few bigger than Iraq. As David Cameron seeks to exploit the inquiry's findings for political gain, he should remind him that he and his allies, such as George Osborne (a self-described neoconservative), were cheerleaders for the invasion. 

The inquiry is also an example of why, contrary to much Westminster opinion, Labour elected the right Miliband. Had David become leader, still bearing the weight of his vote for the war, the party would have much more to fear from Chilcot's conclusions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Forget gaining £350m a week, Brexit would cost the UK £300m a week

Figures from the government's own Office for Budget Responsibility reveal the negative economic impact Brexit would have. 

Even now, there are some who persist in claiming that Boris Johnson's use of the £350m a week figure was accurate. The UK's gross, as opposed to net EU contribution, is precisely this large, they say. Yet this ignores that Britain's annual rebate (which reduced its overall 2016 contribution to £252m a week) is not "returned" by Brussels but, rather, never leaves Britain to begin with. 

Then there is the £4.1bn that the government received from the EU in public funding, and the £1.5bn allocated directly to British organisations. Fine, the Leavers say, the latter could be better managed by the UK after Brexit (with more for the NHS and less for agriculture).

But this entire discussion ignores that EU withdrawal is set to leave the UK with less, rather than more, to spend. As Carl Emmerson, the deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, notes in a letter in today's Times: "The bigger picture is that the forecast health of the public finances was downgraded by £15bn per year - or almost £300m per week - as a direct result of the Brexit vote. Not only will we not regain control of £350m weekly as a result of Brexit, we are likely to make a net fiscal loss from it. Those are the numbers and forecasts which the government has adopted. It is perhaps surprising that members of the government are suggesting rather different figures."

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts, to which Emmerson refers, are shown below (the £15bn figure appearing in the 2020/21 column).

Some on the right contend that a blitz of tax cuts and deregulation following Brexit would unleash  higher growth. But aside from the deleterious economic and social consequences that could result, there is, as I noted yesterday, no majority in parliament or in the country for this course. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.