Bruce Anderson

There is a strong chance that the new inquiry will finish Mr Blair

There is a strong chance that the new inquiry will finish Mr Blair

I am not an expert on the sleeping habits of adolescents. But I have consulted a number of authorities, viz parents. Their conclusions were unanimous. Cherie Blair’s claim that anxieties over Hutton had disrupted her teenage/student children’s sleep is not credible. It may be difficult to persuade such youngsters to go to bed. Once they are horizontal, forget sleeplessness in the small hours. They are much more likely to need a wet sponge at midday. An insomniac adolescent is as improbable as a father who does not notice that £500,000 of savings have been used to buy student flats. If Mrs Blair cannot come up with better stories, she ought to go back to protecting the family’s privacy.

It is possible that worries about what Hutton might say did keep Mr and Mrs Blair awake. If so, they have seen nothing yet. Even though the Hutton report may have vindicated the PM, this did him no good at all, and the allegations from Brian Jones of the Defence Intelligence Service are a further embarrassment. Moreover, there is a strong chance that the new inquiry will finish Mr Blair. He wants it to conclude its proceedings by the summer — at least one of its members thinks that this will not be possible — in order to give himself the maximum recovery period before an election. But there is no recovery from the destruction of moral authority.

If that were to happen, some of the credit should go to Michael Howard. In a polite but obdurate phone call, he insisted to the Prime Minister that the Butler inquiry’s terms of reference must include the government’s use of intelligence material. Mr Blair tried to resist. He wanted to restrict its scope to the intelligence services. Mr Howard made it clear that without the broader remit, the Tories would not participate.

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