Matthew Parris Matthew Parris

Don’t knock ‘secret deals’. We’ll need one soon

Are we really saying we don’t want Theresa May and Angela Merkel to develop an understanding?

As a founder member of the Guild of Blair-Bashers, someone who reacted strongly against him from our first encounter at dinner when he was only an opposition spokesman, as a commentator who railed against the invasion of Iraq the moment the idea was mooted and right through to the end, and as a journalist who throughout Tony Blair’s time at No. 10 beat my tiny fists against the imposter I always thought him to be, perhaps I may deserve your attention now, after Chilcot, that I have something to say in Mr Blair’s defence?

I don’t believe that in any important way the former Prime Minister lied. And I don’t agree there would have been anything wrong with his giving secret undertakings to the President of the United States.

These seem to me to be the two significant moral charges Blair’s foes and critics have been making. They relate to personal probity. The rest — and the Chilcot Report expends millions of words on this — are about personal and collective competence.

Doubtless Blair and everyone around him were incompetent. Doubtless they took on trust what they should have rigorously tested. Doubtless they shamelessly overegged the case to get support for what they believed to be necessary. Doubtless they never planned properly for the aftermath of the invasion, and doubtless the plans they did make were flawed. The whole fiasco was marked by blunder, delusion and miscalculation.

One must, however, observe that these indictments would not distinguish this fiasco from scores of other British military and foreign–policy fiascos over the centuries — nor from a fair few British military and foreign policy successes. Imagine what the Franks report into events leading up to the Falklands War (carefully critical though it was) would have said if the invasion had failed.

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