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Clare Short MP

Ladywood MP Clare Short claims she was “misled” by Tony Blair in the run-up to the war in Iraq – but how come her colleague Robin Cook saw through the former PM a full two months earlier?

Short’s testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry yesterday earned her a round of applause and has provided ample fodder for the Blair-bashing brigade in the media. And let’s make it clear – that’s absolutely fine by us.

But as the member of a Cabinet which declared war on a nation which posed no direct threat to this country, the former International Development Secretary has blood on her hands too.

The account she gives of a government obsessed with the media, and where power was concentrated in Blairite cliques doesn’t come as any surprise – but Short’s powerful account of it has the rare value of coming from an insider.

She roundly rubbished Lord Goldsmith’s testimony , saying: "I think for the Attorney General to come and say there's unequivocal legal authority to go war was misleading.

"I think he misled the Cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through."

Well, some people did Clare, but not your colleague, the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook – on the eve of war, he gave up his ministerial salary and the trappings of office because he could smell a rat.

In a statement at the time of his resignation, he said pointedly "I can't accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support."

It was a bold and courageous move which earned an unprecdented ovation in the Commons.

If Short had followed him by quitting at the time, Blair’s government may have tottered, and the Iraq fiasco avoided; instead – whether through her thirst for power or her credulous belief in the PM’s promises or maybe just a loss of nerve – she clung on, and the moment was lost.

Supporters of the Ladywood MP have always claimed that she is a woman of integrity and honour.

Maybe so. But if nothing else her evidence to Chilcot makes it clear that she lacks one of the key ingredients of any serious political figure – good judgement.



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