Huddling in gangs

17 February 2010

Whatever the many shortcomings of the Chilcot Inquiry, it has demonstrated the way in which British Cabinet politics ignores, even excludes, the public interest. Robin Cook, who resigned as Leader of the House of Commons over Iraq, and died relatively young two years later, has been the ghost at the Inquiry, but with good reason, for his diaries had already explained much of what happened on or around the Downing Street sofas. David Clark, Cook’s former adviser, offers a concise description based on the diaries:

They show a government for whom the real nature of the threat posed by Iraq was subsidiary to other considerations: for Blair the imperative was sticking close to Washington; for most of his colleagues it was about loyalty to him. … In this atmosphere, the intelligence picture and legal arguments that have occupied so much of the inquiry’s time were treated not as policy guides, but political obstacles to be overcome.

Such a concern about loyalty might have been more understandable in Labour’s first term, but – even if politics is inherently tribal – after a second sizeable election victory it seems less necessary.  As for Cook, Blair was fulsome in his praise after his death. But you can’t help feel that the stress of standing up against his colleagues – of standing out from the gang – probably contributed to his death at 59.

The picture is from the Atlantic Free Press, and is used with thanks.

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