Just when it seemed that the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war had finished its work and that its evenly-balanced conclusions would be quietly noted and shelved, news came yesterday that Tony Blair has been recalled to clarify inconsistencies between the evidence he gave to the inquiry last January and the contents of Cabinet documents that came to light in June. This recall is significant because the issue is nothing less than whether the Iraq war in 2003 was legal or not. When Mr Blair was asked about this in January he told the inquiry that the legality of the war was a very ,very difficult balanced judgement.
The first Cabinet document was to the prime minister from the government's chief legal officer, Attorney General Goldsmith, who began his minute of 30 January 2003: In view of your meeting with President Bush on Friday, I thought you might wish to know where I stand on the question of whether a further UN Security Council resolution is legally required in order to authorise the use of force against Iraq. My view is that a further UN decision is required. The following day Mr Blair met President Bush who told him that with or without a new Security Council resolution bombing will begin in March 03. Mr Blair's adviser, David Manning, who was at the meeting, noted that The prime minister said he was solidly with the President. Mr Blair has some explaining to do.