Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry opens today. It ought not to be the thing uppermost in his mind, but he probably represents the last chance for Labour to re-establish itself as a fundamentally decent and honest party that foolishly allowed some bad apples to dominate it. That can happen if the inquiry is searching, open, independent and fearless, and if those responsible for the Iraq disaster are held to account. If Sir John serves up another bucket of whitewash, the conclusion of the British people is likely to be that the whole party is irredeemably corrupted.
There are some hopeful signs – Labour’s attempt to hush the whole thing up by conducting the inquiry in secret has been thwarted, but overall the indications are not good. Sir John Chilcot is an establishment man to his fingertips, and has a track record of letting Tony Blair and his cronies off the hook as an underling on the Butler inquiry. The inquiry panel has been packed with Blair apologists, and Labour has specifically told Sir John that he is not supposed to “establish civil or criminal liability”.
All a bit odd isn’t it? When Baby P was killed, Labour was only too happy to apportion blame and sack those responsible. Why should it be different when we are dealing with the much greater disaster of Iraq?
So far the only people to lose their jobs over Iraq have been the chairman and director-general of the BBC, and the BBC reporter who dared to tell the truth. And Labour wrings its hands, claiming not to understand why people are so cynical about it.