Tony Blair or Tony Bliar?

It would have been nice to have been proved wrong.

It would have been good to be able to say, mea culpa, I got it wrong about good old Tony. Forget about the fact that I’ve previously written that I’ve come to dislike and distrust him with a passion – he really is the man for the job of Prime Minister; someone who holds himself to the very highest of standards and who would not, ever, mislead the country.

Except that, it would appear that not only did he mislead the country on the legal basis for taking it into the war in Iraq, he also misled his own cabinet and parliament colleagues. Today, The Guardian has published a leaked version of the summary advice from the Attorney-General given to Tony Blair on March 7. As the Guardian states in its leader today:

It is little wonder the government struggled so hard to keep secret the attorney general’s March 7 advice on the legality of war. It is, in more ways than one, an extremely troubling document. The extracts we publish today bear little relation – in tone or content – to the so-called summary which was presented to both cabinet and parliament as they weighed up the morality and legality of going to war in Iraq just 10 days later. The March 17 document was stripped of all the nuances, qualifications and caveats contained in the March 7 opinion. It could not conceivably be regarded as a summary of the earlier advice. Both cabinet and parliament were – to put it at its mildest – kept unforgiveably in the dark. It looks rather worse than that: it looks as if they were deceived.

As a result of this damning charge, Blair has now released the complete March 7 document – something that up until this point he has adamantly refused to do. And indeed, it is "an extremely troubling document". It bears precious little relation to the dumbed-down final version that was put before the cabinet and parliament on March 17. Something happened in those ten days that changed the almost obsessively careful language of the original document into one that essentially said: "Nothing to worry about, chaps – let loose the dogs of war"…

So, previous Labour voters, the choice is yours – do you ignore the smell of Blair and vote for Labour with a clothes-peg clamped to your nose, as Polly Toynbee advises, or do you look at the alternatives, as Frances Beckett suggests? Increasingly, I would be drawn to the latter (as long as it’s not of a Conservative, BNP or UKIP flavour).

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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