Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. /
22 January 2010

Brown and Iraq: myth and reality

This Atlanticist genuinely backed the war

By James Macintyre

The surprising news that Gordon Brown will, in fact, appear before the Chilcot Iraq inquiry before the general election will prompt further speculation about his true views on the 2003 invasion.

It has often been put about by some close to him that the then chancellor privately opposed military action. And while it is true that Brown might have “done a Wilson” and supported the US spiritually but not militarily, the likelihood remains that he would have done broadly the same as Blair. Why? Because far from being “Old Labour”, he is just about the biggest Atlanticist in the Labour Party, perhaps even bigger than Blair.

Brown initiated the so-called “Clintonisation” of New Labour in the 1990s with a series of trips to the US, where he still holidays. This is relevant, because it is becoming increasingly clear that Iraq was a warped reaction to the September 11 attacks — and that the UK backed the invasion in order to stay close to America.

As to the implications of Brown making an appearance: on the one hand, this could damage him, reminding voters that it was a “Labour war”, even though it was unwisely backed by the Tories. This will stay the case no matter how hard the Prime Minister tries personally to disassociate himself from it.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

On the other hand, Brown strategists believe there is a chance that — along with the debates — this could be a chance for him to level with the British people, and that he may even thrive under pressure.

Whatever happens, it should be noted that Brown’s letter expressing his willingness to appear at any time — and the Chilcot inquiry’s U-turn over senior politicians appearing before the election — are a victory for Nick Clegg, who urged more transparency in a powerful intervention at Prime Minister’s Questions.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter