JACK Straw's appearance yesterday at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War may well turn out to have been his swansong as a senior minister after a long and, on the whole, honourable career. It had become clear earlier in the week, from the release of his Secret and Personal note to Tony Blair on the eve of his visit to meet President Bush in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002, that Mr Straw had serious reservations about the dangerous course the prime minister's thinking on Iraq was taking him.
Yesterday he described in considerable detail the doubts that he wrestled with in the following months as the invasion of Iraq came ever closer, even as late as the day before Mr Blair told the House of Commons that military action was necessary.
In the end, however, Mr Straw said he decided that he should support the prime minister while recognising that if, as Foreign Secretary he had not done so he would have stopped Britain's military participation because, he said, there was no majority for the invasion in the Cabinet or in the country. He can be believed when he said yesterday that it was the most difficult decision he had faced in his life. Watching Mr Straw as he said that, it was difficult not to think of Robin Cook, his predecessor as Foreign Secretary, who resigned from the government on the day after Mr Blair got the support of the Commons for military action.