Sir Christopher Meyer has criticised Sir Gus O'Donnell's decision not to publish the memos of conversations between Tony Blair and George Bush over the Iraq war, PoliticsHome reports.Britain's ambassador in Washington at the time of the Iraq invasion told the Today programme:
Here we have a committee of privy councillors looking into the genesis and conduct of a war and a once in a century event, in a situation where the prime minister is accused by some of lying, is accused of taking us to war illegally.Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former British ambassador to the UN, disagreed:
And here we have correspondence which actually gives I believe the clearest indication of the prime minister's motives and the nature of his commitments to George Bush."
I think there's a limit of what you can publish of private correspondence between leaders. What matters is the process itself... I think that that correspondence has been rightfully withheld.Asked who owns state secrets, Greenstock said: "The government does, no individual does."
In contrast to last time he was questioned, Tony Blair entered the building by the front door, pausing briefly to let photographers take his picture. Last time, the former prime minister entered the venue by a cordoned-off rear entrance.Blair arrived more than two hours before questioning was due to begin. Only a handful of protesters were outside the QE2 conference centre in central London when he got there.
Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop The War Coalition, said:
Yet again he has sneaked in under cover of darkness, mirroring the way in which he launched his illegal war in 2003. Hopefully later today he will be asked to tell the truth about the legal advice he was given by Lord Goldsmith and also be challenged publicly about the contents of his letters to George Bush which he is still keeping secret.Demonstrators held up banners calling Blair a liar and shouting that he should face a war crimes tribunal, according to the Press Association. Scores of police officers are on duty outside the conference centre.
Tony Blair has arrived at the Iraq inquiry.
In his memoirs Tony Blair said that he felt "sick" when he was asked a question at the end of his appearance before the Iraq inquiry in January last year. Sir John Chilcot wanted to know if he had any regrets about the war. Blair felt this was unfair because this was "a headline question" that had to have a headline answer. "This wasn't a question being asked or answered in the quiet reflection of the soul; not something that could be weighed, considered and explained with profundity and penetrating clarity or even an easy honesty," Blair wrote.
If Blair felt last year's hearing was tricky, he may be feeling a lot more uncomfortable about what's going to happen today. Most observers felt that Chilcot and the four other members of his inquiry team gave Blair a rather easy ride last year. Today it is likely to be different. At the weekend Brian Brady in the Independent on Sunday quoted a source close to the inquiry as saying that the team felt what Blair had to say about the findings of the Iraq Survey Group was misleading. The source was quoted as saying:
There is a feeling that on this and on elements like the legal advice, he wilfully misrepresented the facts. The [panel members] are bruised by the suggestions that they gave him an easy ride last year, but they will be more prepared this time round.The inquiry has dismissed this story. "There was a lot of head-scratching when that appeared," an official told me yesterday. "No one was looking around the room saying, 'Who gave away our secrets?'" But the inquiry has made it clear that some witnesses are being recalled to clear up apparent inconsistencies between what they said first time around and what the other evidence suggests. Blair is going to to be asked about a series of specific issues. And the questioning is likely to be more forensic than it was 12 months ago.
What will he be asked? The inquiry has not said. But it's not hard to guess what some of the questions will, or should, be. In the Guardian Philippe Sands has produced five key questions for the former prime minister. In the Independent Michael Savage has got 15 charges to be answered. My colleague Richard Norton-Taylor has also written up the latest evidence to emerge from the inquiry. It shows that Blair was offered a way out of attacking Iraq at a secret meeting with his foreign secretary Jack Straw eight days before the invasion.The hearing starts at 9.30am and it will go on until about 2pm, with no break for lunch. I'll be blogging throughout, and then covering all the reaction afterwards.