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.