Alastair Campbell is before the Iraq Inquiry. As one of Blair’s closest aides, Campbell’s role in the run-up to the Iraq war was key. But I suspect the spinner-in-chief will be doing what he was originally hired to do: namely, protect his master by attracting the incoming fire. In this case, though, he will be helping Gordon Brown, not Tony Blair.
Because it is Brown’s role in the Iraq War, not that of Blair, that is the most obscure part of Britain’s modern history. As chancellor, Brown was the second most powerful man in government. He held the purse strings. If he had opposed the Iraq War, it is hard to see Tony Blair succeeding in persuading Cabinet, the Parliamentary Labour party or the House of Commons.
So what did Brown think about the war? What kind of interventions did he make around the Cabinet table and while sitting on Tony Blair’s famous sofa in No 10? Letters have now come to light showing that Brown personally rejected earlier Treasury commitments to the Ministry of Defence that money could be spent on, for example, troop-carrying helicopters.
Sir John Chilcot has tried to get around calling Brown as a witness by arguing that the “the Inquiry should not be used as a political platform for political advantage”, and for this reason he has “decided to wait until after the election to hear from those Ministers who are currently serving in the roles about which the Committee wishes to question them.”
Fine, but the panel does not need to quiz Brown about his role as prime minister – at least not yet; it should ask him about his role as chancellor. So by Sir John’s own reasoning, Brown could be called to give evidence.