Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Blair's Opposition to Inquiry Designed to Extend his Time as PM?
Margaret Beckett was not convincing either. To argue that (what she dismissively referred to as) 'rehashing' such matters is bad for troop morale is scarcely persuasive. If I were in Iraq a soldier I think I'd be quite glad to be enlightened on precisely why I was out there. Beckett seemed to suggest that once the troops were back home then that would be the time to do the inquiry- and to be fair that is when the excellent Franks Report on the Falklands was produced. But when pressed by Kenneth Clarke on this this she veered away as if startled at her own idea.
As for the politics of it, I note firstly that Hilary Benn will sum up for the government. This will give some prominent exposure after announcing his candidature for the deputy leadership but, given the topic, it won't do him much good with Labour lefties- his natural constituency- to be seen defending Blair. Secondly, why is Blair so against the idea? It could be argued that: as Iraq has already done its worst to him, destroying his repuation for veracity and much of the trust we all had in him; and as he is going anyway, he might as well allow this inquiry to be set up. My suspicion is however that the explanation goes something as follows. Before the Manchester conference, it seemed he'd be lucky to survive a week let alone till next May; but after his magnificent speech he seemed to have won a respite and maybe June-July might now seem acceptable rather than the earlier date.
It might sound fanciful but it could be that to be sure of these precious extra months of political life, Blair is pursuing a strategy of maximizing his support in the party. He wants to sustain the recovery in his fortunes which the September conference achieved by protecting himself from a process which would direct unwelcome attentions to a period of policy planning about which he feels (I suspect justifiably)insecure.
Prior calculations suggest sufficient number of antiwar Labour MPs will fit in with Blair's putative strategy and enabvle him to squeak through, but he should be assured by the tone of this debate that this issue will dog him all the way to his grave.
An inquiry is a waste of time. As with the Hutton Inquiry, these people are convinced that they are right. The inquiry will either reach their conclusion or they will dismiss the finding. Both are a waste of time, succour to te enemy and damaging to the troops I suspect they care little about in any case.
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