by Chris Ames
For the past couple of weeks we’ve had leading politicians calling for the Inquiry report to be published but no consensus as to whose fault it is that the process has stalled. Tony Blair has been accused of being the block and has denied it but the real debate seems to be whether it is the Cabinet Office for failing to allow the publication of key evidence or the Inquiry for refusing to blink first.
So when you get first David Cameron and then Boris Johnson saying they should just get on with it, it isn’t clear who they think should budge. According to the Mail on Sunday:
‘The PM believes there is no excuse for any further lengthy delay in publishing Chilcot,’ said a No 10 aide.
‘It would be unreasonable to postpone it beyond the next Election.’
It’s good news if Camerson is not going to have publication delayed further because of the election, but is this implicit criticism of the Inquiry? Cameron knows very well that John believes he can only publish with the key evidence, so is he saying he should give in? If Cameron wants the report published, why doesn’t he tell the Cabinet Office to stop being obstructive?
On LBC’s Ask Boris this morning, Boris Johnson said he “passionately” agreed that the report should be published and that if he had it, he would publish it. But that supposes that there is a settled entity that can be published, whereas the reality is that there is no agreement about what can be published.
In the Telegraph, Dan Hodges also seems to think it’s a case of publish and be damned. I don’t think he really understands the issue either.
At each stage, Mr Cameron’s frustration at these continuing delays has becoming increasingly evident. His response to the first letter carried his “hope that it will be possible to meet this new timetable”. His second expressed a desire to see the report completed “as quickly as possible”. The third pointedly said: “I appreciate that consideration of the disclosure requests for the remaining sensitive categories of information must be handled sensitively, but I hope consideration of the final set of papers can be concluded as soon as possible.”
Unfortunately, Sir John failed to take the hint. And as a result, Downing Street is not prepared to entertain additional entreaties about how the dog has eaten his homework.
If this is pointed criticism of anyone, it is criticism of the people who are considering the disclosure requests, ie the Cabinet Office.
After all the blaming and buck passing, are we any further forward? I don’t think so. I think it would help a lot if those people who say they should just get on with it said who they think should give way.