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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Challenging the Prime Minister

It has to be said that Gordon Brown delivered a very creditable performance in front of the Chilcot Enquiry yesterday and looked to have successfully distanced himself from his predecessor over the Iraq War.

As the BBC reports he told the enquiry that he thought the conflict had been "right" to prevent other "rogue states" flouting international law but that lessons could be learned from it.

He paid tribute to the "sacrifices" of British servicemen and women, saying: "Obviously the loss of life is something that makes us all sad."

He insisted UK forces had been given all the equipment they had asked for, telling the panel: "At any point, commanders were able to ask for equipment that they needed and I know of no occasion when they were turned down."

He said the Iraq war had cost Britain £8bn and the total cost to the UK of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had been £18bn, on top of what he repeatedly stressed was an increasing defence budget.

However, he has immediately got into hot water this morning with two former heads of the armed forces strongly challenging his evidence.

Lord Guthrie, ex-chief of the defence staff, is quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying that armed forces had been denied a request for more helicopters. His successor, Lord Boyce, told the Times Mr Brown had been "disingenuous". Number 10 has rejected these accusations.

It seems that the only way that this can be cleared up is for Sir John Chilcot to publish the relevant Treasury documents. I think though that this is unlikely to happen before the full report comes out and that this will be after the General Election.

Maybe if the Prime Minister is so confident of his position he will publish the documents so as to dispel any doubt.
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