By Ray Fleming THE Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war which hears from Tony Blair today has been gaining respect from those following its proceedings closely. The forensic examination to which the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith was subjected on Wednesday by Sir Roderick Line was particularly impressive; it exposed inconsistent and contradictory statements made by Goldsmith to explain his reason for changing his mind about the legality of the Iraq war only three days before it was launched. Unfortunately, however, another member of the Inquiry panel has rather foolishly chosen to make known his admiration for both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in advance of having to question them in public.

Sir Martin Gilbert is one of Britain's most distinguished historians, with some eighty books to his name, among them the official biography of Winston Churchill. Oddly, it therefore seems, he once compared Tony Blair with Churchill and has now praised Gordon Brown as “a prime minister who is totally committed to Israel and feels very close to the Jewish people” -- an observation based on Mr Brown's visit to Israel last year when Sir Martin accompanied him. He made this remark during an interview on Israel radio while on a recent visit there. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with the comment as such but it is odd for the member of an inquiry responsible for rigorous questioning of those coming before it to display in advance his admiration for two of the principal witnesses.