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Daily View: Preparing for Tony Blair's turn at Iraq inquiry

Clare Spencer | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Tony BlairLater this week Tony Blair will speak at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war. Commentators gear up for the event with predictions about his performance and the fall-out.

In the Guardian George Monbiot says the inquiry is not set up to ask what he sees as the only important question:

"The only question that counts is the one that the Chilcot inquiry won't address: was the war with Iraq illegal? If the answer is yes, everything changes. The war is no longer a political matter, but a criminal one, and those who commissioned it should be committed for trial for what the Nuremberg tribunal called 'the supreme international crime': the crime of aggression."

Phillip Stephens at the Financial Times predicts Mr Blair's critics will be disappointed:

"There will be plenty for the inquiry to seize upon if it wants to criticise the way Mr Blair took Britain to war. But these are issues of judgment, competence and process rather than mendacity. That will not satisfy the Blair-is-a-war-criminal brigade. But then the quest for a smoking gun has always seemed likely to prove as futile as was Mr Blix's search for WMD."

Rachel Sylvester in the Times believes the anger against Mr Blair is not just about Iraq but reflects a wider sense of betrayal after being disappointed that he didn't live up to some people's hopes:

"Tony Blair's appearance at the Chilcot inquiry on Friday is turning into a voyeuristic spectacle, a modern-day equivalent of the public hangings where crowds gathered around the gallows to jeer... For weeks Mr Blair has been studying papers, talking to friends writing longhand notes, as he prepares for Friday. He will, says a friend, be 'candid and direct', admitting some mistakes - although he will not concede that it was wrong to go to war. It will, no doubt, be a polished performance. For his critics, though, it will never be enough because their angst is not just about the war in Iraq. "

Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph predicts Mr Blair will be well-prepared, with a good performance:

"Come Friday, Blair will almost certainly survive his grilling with ease. Yet the inquiry's real damage to the former Prime Minister is not from any admissions it extracts, but from the political effect it has created. For the real cognoscenti, the inquiry has found few new facts. But it has for the first time brought those facts together, on the record and on television, over a relatively short period of time. The political impact of that can already be seen in Gordon Brown's surprise decision to testify early."

That political impact is picked up by Mike Smithson in the blog Political Betting. He suggests that the Blair's appearance will overshadow reports that we may be exiting a recession:

"The economy will dominate the next couple of new cycles but then our attention will turn in a big and a dramatic way to Friday's appearance before the Iraq Inquiry of Tony Blair and the questions, no doubt, of what his chancellor's role was in New Labour's signature policy.
The timing is in my favourite phrase 'less than optimal' for Brown Central for instead of focussing on the economy, the inquiry will take centre stage."

Mary Riddell in the Telegraph argues that David Cameron aims to be, like Tony Blair, a "preacher politician" which people will get a reminder of:

"Tony Blair, for all his folly, had charisma, weight and a social reform agenda. That does not wash Iraqi blood from his hands or excuse the demonising of British children, but it does explain how he got away with playing Messiah for so long. This week, as Britain watches the former PM give his evidence, it should ask whether it really wants to install Blair Lite."

Links in full

see alsoMike Smithson | Political Betting | Is this the day Gord can smile again?
IndependentJohn Rentoul | Independent | The REAL questions Blair must answer
IndependentJohn Rentoul | Independent | The questions that Blair MUST be asked
GuardianGeorge Monbiot | Guardian | Wanted: Tony Blair for war crimes
TelegraphMary Riddell | Telegraph | The crusades of 'virtuous' Tony Blair
TimesRachel Sylvester | Times | Chilcot is a stage for Labour's psychodrama
MirrorSue Carroll | Mirror | Why we're justified for doubting the reasons for security warning
GuardianNick Cohen | Guardian | Forget it - Blair will never be branded a war criminal
Greg Pope | The Audacity of Pope | Lying war criminal goes on trial. Not.
GuardianBryan Gould | Guardian | The real reason for the Iraq war
TelegraphAndrew Gilligan | Telegraph | Will Blair go to war again?
TelegraphWill Heaven | Telegraph | What could possibly go wrong?
Financial TimesPhilip Stephens | Financial Times | The futile quest for Iraq's smoking gun

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