29 Oct 2015

Chilcot gives a timetable – of sorts

The Chilcot blame game is in full flight today, everyone trying to make sure the public and the relatives of those who were killed or injured in Iraq don’t blame them for the long, long wait.

Sir John Chilcot says in a letter to the Prime Minister that we won’t see his report until June or July next year.

David Cameron’s letter back to Sir John Chilcot says that the checks and preparation for publication will be as quick as possible – some Whitehall sources still briefing that it’ll be published in the Spring.

A still image from video shows former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaking at an inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War, at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, in central London

A bit of a discrepancy that when you would think that they might both be getting their advice on publication process etc from the same Cabinet Secretary. One Whitehall hand insisted it would definitely be two months after April before publication and said that “David Cameron is showboating.” Another Whitehall figure said they were still pretty sure that publication would be in the Spring.

Tony Blair’s office weighed in trying to make sure that their man didn’t cop the blame for delay:

“Tony Blair received the deliberations of the Inquiry under the Maxwell process in full only in January 2015, four years after the Inquiry finished taking evidence. He responded by August. This is not therefore the reason for the delay as Sir John Chilcot has made clear.
It is our understanding that other witnesses also received information very late in the process, so any suggestion that witnesses have been the cause of the delay is categorically incorrect and this has again been stated clearly and publicly by Sir John.”

That didn’t stop Jeremy Corbyn saying he hoped Tony Blair and George Bush weren’t still holding up publication. For the record, they’re not.

Jeremy Corbyn has long rejected the format of the Inquiry. He told the Commons in January that Michael Mansfield QC should’ve been hired to interrogate Tony Blair and Jack Straw in a judicial-led, counsel-armed inquiry. He said Tony Blair’s trips to the Inquiry to give evidence were “showman-like” and said:

“I suspect that (the Chilcot Inquiry Report) will be full of redactions and … we will have to read a million words before we discover which bits have been redacted.”

One witness who received documents as part of the Maxwellisation process told me he agreed with former Development Secretary Clare Short who (back in August) called it “very poor” after she’d seen draft criticisms of her own work on Iraq.

The witness I spoke to said lawyers acting on his behalf had easily uncovered documents from the Chilcot Inquiry database which the Inquiry team appeared to have ignored.

The Guardian says that Chilcot’s team feels in some cases the Whitehall machine held back some documents only releasing them when witnesses complained they’d not been treated fairly.

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