Martin Bright

Jack Straw: The Ultimate New Labour Politician

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He's the man who managed to be the campaign manager to Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown. Just after the election-that-never-was in 2007 he let it be known that he had counselled against a snap election. Now the Sunday Times publishes the memo he sent to Tony Blair suggesting that the war might turn out to be a bad idea. Jack Straw: the man who always covers his back. In fact, Straw let the existence of this memo be known shortly after the war turned nasty. I considered it common knowledge when I wrote about it in 2007 and I'm pretty sure John Kampfner talked about it in his book Blair's Wars.

The point is that Straw expressed serious doubts a year before the outbreak of war, but still continued to support the intervention. It is difficult to understand what allowed him to set aside his concerns beyond pure political ambition. 

I am seriously worried that the letter will become the focus of Straw's interrogation. He will use it to attempt to reflect himself in the best possible light as someone who tried to slow the military juggernaut.

But this is a distraction, just as Alistair Cambell's "revelation" about the existence of Blair's letters of support for Bush were a distraction. Neither does anything to alter our understanding of the conflict. They simply confirm what we already knew. The appearance of novelty serves the desire of the media for fresh news but does nothing to get to the truth of the matter.

I would like to see Jack Straw questioned about the Katharine Gun memo - the document leaked to the Observer by the GCHQ whistleblower in February 2003, which showed the US National Security Agency asking for British help with a spying operation at the United Nations. In essence the memo asked GCHQ to take part in an intelligence "surge" to unearth information about delegates on the Security Council n order to fix the vote for a second resolution. Thus would have given legal cover for the war. 

Jack Straw would have had to authorise British participation in this operation (illegal under international law) and he has never been forced to answer whether he gave the order. 

As it turned out, Bush and Blair ultimately decided to sidestep the UN route. But the questions over Straw's actions remain: despite his doubts about the wisdom of intervention, did he authorise a breach of international law to allow the UK intelligence services to be used to pursue the political aims of the US government?

I know Katharine Gun has offered to cooperate with the Chilcot Inquiry and it should use her evidence to challenge Straw on what he did in 2003, not on what he said in 2002.