Iraq Inquiry - Is it being 'sexed down'?

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Sir John ChilcotImage source, PA

Delayed again. Until after the election. Very suspicious say those who fear a cover up of the decisions taken by Tony Blair's government which led the UK to join George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Nick Clegg - whose Liberal Democrat party opposed the war in the face of combined Labour and Conservative support for it - says that some will fear that the report of the Iraq Inquiry is being "sexed down".

Few if any of those facing criticism in the report will speak publicly but I've been speaking to those familiar with what's going on behind the scenes.

In summary this is what they say in reply. These are not my views but a summary of their's and, yes, of course they have their own axe to grind:

They say:

  • Chilcott has missed every deadline he's set. This delay is nothing to do with the witnesses
  • The opportunity to respond to draft criticisms before they are published is standard practice and a legal right in an inquiry of this sort (it is called Maxwell-isation and was established after a legal challenge following the Maxwell inquiry)
  • Those criticised only received the draft report about them just before Christmas
  • The report is ludicrously long and criticises many more people than just Tony Blair so responding to criticisms is bound to take a good deal of time
  • They insist they have wanted this report out for a long time so that they can face the criticisms and answer them as best they can.

Some will believe none of this and fear an establishment stitch up. Others will note that nothing to do with Iraq can be free of politics.

So, today it will be the long term opponents of the war who will complain the loudest - in part because they want to remind the electorate that "we were right".

Labour will breathe a sigh of relief that the election run-up will not be dominated by reminders of their former leader's alleged crimes and misdemeanours.

Many others will be impatient for the country to have the proper opportunity to learn and move on from what many see as one of the great foreign policy disasters of recent times.