David Blackburn

Already, the anti-war lawyers leap on Clegg’s slip

Already, the anti-war lawyers leap on Clegg’s slip
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Never one to miss the bus, Phillipe Sands QC has informed the Guardian that an international court would be ‘interested’ in Nick Clegg’s view that the Iraq War was illegal. Sands continues with his favourite homily:

‘Lord Goldsmith never gave a written advice that the war was lawful. Nick Clegg is only repeating what Lord Goldsmith told Tony Blair on 30 January 2003: that without a further UN security resolution the war would be illegal and Jack Straw knows that.’

Well, that would be right but for Goldsmith’s draft advice of the 12 February 2003, and his final clarification on 7 March 2003. Goldsmith remains a brilliant commercial lawyer; international law was not his specialism and it showed: plainly, he did not initially understand the deliberately arcane wording of UN resolution 1441, which his draft of 12 February tacitly acknowledges.

However, Clegg has put the coalition in an extremely awkward spot. The government has decided to defer the matter of legality to the Chilcot Inquiry; but Chilcot will not be deciding on the law’s legality. The deputy-prime minister’s personal slip has some way yet to run politically.