Based on a passage in my diary (clearly missed by The Guardian who serialised Burden of Power last week) The IoS has splashed with ‘How Blair misled Cabinet on Iraq.’ The Guardian were right to miss it first time round.
I went into rebuttal mode with reporter Jane Merrick on twitter, pointing out that the text she quoted did not remotely justify the headline. Pointing out too that it was exactly the kind of news and comment fusion Tony Blair, John Major and many others talked about at Leveson. I also drew attention to various passages of former Attorney General Peter Goldsmith’s evidence to Chilcot, and asked if the IoS had bothered to study it before rushing to print a story which conformed to their view of the Iraq war.
e.g. when Sir Roderic Lyne asks: ‘so no one at any stage asked you to restrict what you said to cabinet to the fairly limited terms in which you presented this to cabinet?’ And Goldsmith replies ‘No.’
e.g. (the paper suggests TB stopped him speaking to Cabinet) ‘I do recall telling Cabinet, “well, there is another point of view,”but this is the conclusion that I have reached’
e.g. ‘I was there. I was therefore in a position to answer all questions. I was in a position to say that my opinion was that this was lawful… I did say that there was another point of view, but they knew that very well in any event.’
eg ‘The cabinet I’m sure knew that there were two points of view because that had been well travelled in the press. The caveat was you need to be satisfied that there really has been a failure to take the final opportunity. That, of course, was something which was right in the forefront of cabinet’s mind, I have no doubt, and I’m sure was mentioned by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and others in the course of the debate. So I think the issue was well understood.’
eg “There were a number of cabinet ministers there who had actually seen….I knew had seen the whole of the minute, for example, of 7 March, although things, as you rightly say, had moved on.”
e.g. ‘Was it lawful? That was a necessary condition. Then they would need to consider whether it was the right thing to do. That’s what they then went on to debate, and I sat and listened as they went through the issues of the effect on the domestic community, the effect on international policy, what would this do in terms of the UN and so forth. So they were looking at much bigger questions of ‘is it right?’ Not just ‘is it lawful’.
I fear that a reading, let alone publishing of these passages, might have spoiled what, late this afternoon, the paper decided was a ‘good story.’ This was not the story originally put to me. That was about another passage in which I talked about worries Goldsmith might resign over the use of disproportionate force.
But then they decided that wasn’t a story at all and went for this other one. However they did not put it to me. Indeed I only heard about it because I called Jane Merrick around 630pm about the earlier story I thought they were running.
So I had about 20 minutes to get a reaction to them. It is only since that I have been able to research more thoroughly.
Here, for the sake of completeness, is what I told her just before they went to press. ‘Peter Goldsmith’s full legal opinion is in the public domain having been leaked and then fully published during the 2005 election campaign and it is no secret that he had concerns at various points. This entry is consistent with what he and TB said to the Chilcot Inquiry. At that point he was not being asked to give a formal opinion. When he did so, and was questioned by the Cabinet, as I record later in the diary, he said lawyers all over the world have doubts but he was confident in his position that Resolution 1441 gave legal authority for the use of force by reactivating prior resolutions.’
I have also pointed out that it is not even clear that the entry on which she bases this splash refers to a meeting with the AG, rather than a discussion in Number 10 of a paper he had sent a few days earlier.
All I know is that this is Chapter 9,547 of that well known never-ending book of modern political life, The Real Spin Doctors Are The Journalists.
Enough already. Time for bed.