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Chris Ames

Chris Ames, a freelance writer and investigative journalist, is editor of iraqdossier.com
independent minds

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independent minds

Hiding behind confusion

Posted by Chris Ames
  • Thursday, 18 December 2008 at 10:35 am
Gordon Brown really does need to spell out today exactly when his promised Iraq inquiry will take place, not least because if he doesn't it will look as if he is hiding behind the confusion of Harriet Harman.

Yesterday's pre-announcement that British combat troops will be out of southern Iraq by the summer looks like a tactical error today as the demands for an inquiry come thick and fast and Sky News says “Army's Return Spells Iraq Inquiry. It isn’t quite the disaster that his phoney announcement last autumn soon became but it does leave him with some explaining to do.

When Brown stands up in the Commons at 11.30 and makes his announcement, he will have little new to say unless he spells out exactly when and how the inquiry will take place. David Cameron will almost certainly challenge him on this, particularly after Harriet Harman mangled the message so badly yesterday.

In spite of Harman's claims to the contrary, there is a delay and now there is confusion and Brown is looking cynical. Andrew Grice is already saying that:

“Opposition parties believe Mr Brown may allow the long-delayed inquiry to begin next summer but that it will not report until after the next general election, which could be as late as June 2010.”

If that is the case – or if the election happens in the spring – Brown will have achieved his objective and people will still wonder whether that has been the main purpose of keeping troops in Iraq for six years. Many voters may refuse to support Labour if they feel the truth is being withheld from them and Brown has fallen back into his old ways.