The spin goes on

By Chris Ames

Today’s attempt to get MPs to invite a parliamentary committee to include allegations that Tony Blair misled parliament and public got a right kicking, but the truth was the greater casualty.

Going back a couple of days, my colleague Paul Waugh reported that some Labour MPs bizarrely wanted to be whipped hoarded to vote against the motion, including Blairite Ben Bradshaw:

He said it was an “unacceptable” not to whip fully against a motion that “deliberately distorted” the findings of the Chilcot report and “perpetuates the lie” that Tony Blair misled Parliament and Cabinet “when Chilcot made clear he acted in good faith”.

I emailed Bradshaw to ask him where the Inquiry report made clear that Blair acted in good faith. He kindly replied, albeit somewhat patronisingly, asking me if I had read the report. I won’t publish the whole email but it includes an assertion that

volume 4 paragraph 876 makes clear there was no falsification or improper use of intelligence…

Here it is:

876. The JIC accepted ownership of the dossier and agreed its content. There is no evidence that intelligence was improperly included in the dossier or that No.10 improperly influenced the text.

Oh look, it refers specifically to the dossier, implicitly the part attributed to the Joint Intelligence Committee rather than Blair’s foreword, and a lack of evidence that Blair abused it. Not asserting anyone’s good faith.

The selectiveness of this quotation becomes more stark when you look at what the report says a few paragraphs later:

879. In the Foreword, Mr Blair stated that he believed the “assessed intelligence” had “established beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein had “continued to produce chemical and biological weapons […]

880. The Inquiry is not questioning Mr Blair’s belief […]

881. But the deliberate selection of a formulation which grounded the statement in what Mr Blair believed, rather than in the judgements which the JIC had actually reached in its assessment of the intelligence, indicates a distinction between his beliefs and the JIC’s actual judgements.

There is actually a strange lack of logic to this, because if, as it says, Blair deliberately used a formulation based on what he believed the intelligence said, consciously distinguishing between that and what the intelligence actually said, he could not have genuinely believed the evidence said what he claimed. In any case, it says Blair deliberately chose to do something that allowed him to mislead.

All of which also puts into context the quote from Chilcot, appearing recently before MPs and cited by Bradshaw and a lot of other Blair supporters.

I absolve him from a personal and demonstrable decision to deceive Parliament or the public – to state falsehoods knowing them to be false.

I wouldn’t agree with this myself but it is heavily qualified. Not only is Chilcot referring to what can be demonstrated to be a personal “decision” but he appears to be absolving Blair of quite a high degree of wrongdoing, not for example of misleading people by deliberately choosing to express a belief about what something says rather than what it actually says.

Bradshaw also wrote on Twitter:

Mendacious SNP & Green Party motion deliberately distorting #Chilcot overwhelmingly defeated 439 votes to 70. Excellent result.

This brings us to another mendacious misrepresentation. The motion:

That this House recognises that the Chilcot Inquiry provided substantial evidence of misleading information being presented by the then Prime Minister and others on the development of the then Government’s policy towards the invasion of Iraq as shown most clearly in the contrast between private correspondence to the United States government and public statements to Parliament and to the people and also in the presentation of intelligence information; and calls on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, further to its current investigation into the lessons to be learned from the Chilcot Inquiry for the machinery of government, to conduct a further specific examination of this contrast in public and private policy and of the presentation of intelligence, and then to report to the House on what further action it considers necessary and appropriate to help prevent any repetition of this disastrous series of events.

refers to the evidence provided by Chilcot, not the conclusions the Inquiry reached. As I have pointed out repeatedly here, the Inquiry published plenty of evidence that Blair misled people even if it didn’t join the dots. To claim that a parliamentary motion that refers to evidence of wrongdoing provided by an inquiry is mendacious because the inquiry didn’t find wrongdoing is itself highly mendacious.

Taking the biscuit though has to be the Telegraph, which said:

More than 150 Labour defy Jeremy Corbyn and vote against new Iraq inquiry into Tony Blair ‘misleading’ parliament

According to the Telegraph the Labour MPs who did what the Labour leadership instructed them to were defying its leader.


56 comments to this article

  1. Lee

    on December 18, 2016 at 9:14 pm -

    He sounds like a real doggone Mrkn hero to me. I would feel proud to have him bed one of my fourteen unwed daughters, if he were so inclined.

  2. Peter Beswick

    on December 18, 2016 at 10:08 pm -

    Civil Servants to swear an oath of allegiance to British Values.

    I swear to assist wars that the US want us to take part in

    I swear to cover up kiddie fiddling of my peers

    I swear never to tell the truth

    I swear to spit in the face of Justice

    I swear never to stop taking the piss out of the people paying my wages and pension.

    Bastards!

  3. Lee

    on December 19, 2016 at 6:56 am -

    Under Theresa May, Britain is lurching so far to the right as to make Le Pen seem like a progressive. May’s celebration of Saudi is stupefying. But I cant, somehow, believe that anyone is going to take this fascist pledge seriously. They wont even be able to agree a text. And what will they do if huge numbers refuse to take it ? Fire them all ? The incompetence and intellectual vacuousness is quite alarming.

  4. Peter Beswick

    on December 19, 2016 at 10:22 am -

    Mrs May wants us all to espouse a set of “British Values” but doesn’t feel the need to adopt them herself. Her definition of extremism is pitiful when you look at what we have done to the Middle East.

    “Our definition of extremism is “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs””

    https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/a-stronger-britain-built-on-our-values

    But on those values it is necessary to note that she, Chilcot and rest of the Privy Council have taken a solemn oath to turn their backs on those values.

    The Privy Council Oath places them outside democracy, the royal prerogative trumps the rule of law, individual liberty is in the gift of the Royal prerogative (even our passports are gifted from it and can be taken away),tolerance of different faiths and believes is OK but the Privy Council induction places the Anglican faith as predominant and takes precedence over all others.

    Mays British Values – Do as I say not as I do!

  5. Peter Beswick

    on December 19, 2016 at 4:51 pm -

    “The inquiry [Chilcot] is essential because it will ensure that, by learning lessons, we strengthen the health of our democracy, our diplomacy and our military”

    Gordon Brown quoted in a briefing paper on the various forms of public inquiry and the usefulness of; Independent, non Statutory, ad hoc, Privy Counsellor inquiries.

    http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN02599/SN02599.pdf

    And the common purposes of public inquiries? Well apparently there are 6

    1. Background
    The purposes of public inquiries

    Public inquiries have long played an important role in public life. There
    are many different types of public inquiry, but in this context the term
    “public inquiry” refers to inquiries set up by Government ministers to
    investigate specific or controversial events. Lord Howe identified the
    following six functions for such public inquiries:

    • Establishing the facts – providing a full and fair account of
    what happened, especially in circumstances where the facts
    are disputed, or the course and causation of events is not
    clear;

    • Learning from events – and so helping to prevent their
    recurrence by synthesising or distilling lessons which can
    be used to change practice;

    • Catharsis or therapeutic exposure – providing an
    opportunity for reconciliation and resolution, by bringing
    protagonists face to face with each other’s perspectives
    and problems;

    • Reassurance – rebuilding public confidence after a major
    failure by showing that the government is making sure it is
    fully investigated and dealt with;

    • Accountability, blame and retribution – holding people and
    organisations to account, and sometime indirectly
    contributing to the assignation of blame and to
    mechanisms for retribution;

    • Political considerations – serving a wider political agenda
    for government either in demonstrating that “something is
    being done” or in providing leverage for change.

    Notwithstanding that the Privy Council is about as far from being independent as you can get it also is the antithesis to a democratic body.

    And this might be why Chilcot failed to satisfy even one of the 6 purposes.

  6. Lee

    on December 20, 2016 at 1:39 am -

    You can be pretty sure that when you hear a politician use the word “values” you are listening to fascist bullshit.