Surprised to hear today that I was lined up to do battle on the Chilcot betrayal with ‘Peter Jay.’ Even more surprised he used the words ‘shits’ three times at noon on the eminently respectable BBC Wales.
I’ve not heard his name for years. But I remember him as a broadcast journalist son-in-law of Jim Callaghan. There were whispers of nepotism when he was appointed, without diplomatic qualifications, ambassador to the USA. His spell there was distinguished by personal indiscretions – including allegedly fathering a child with his children’s’ nanny. His colourful career afterwards included a spell as Chief of Staff to Robert Maxwell. In company Maxwell always called him ‘Mr Ambassador’.
From today’s performance on BBC Wales, it’s clear he has now become very righteous and correct. He said that only ‘shits’ would want to publish the whole truth on the Bush-Blair correspondence that led to the Iraq War and the deaths of 179 UK soldiers. Is this how diplomats communicate? The loved ones of the fallen had no right to hear the whole truth, Jay explained. Protocol between the UK and USA was a higher priority. His is the authentic voice of yesterday’s contemptible establishment arrogance telling the lower orders ‘ Yours not to reason why. Yours, but to do and die.’
Many of those who lost family members are tormented with the possibility that they died in vain, for a mistake or a lie. All value the heroism of their fallen relatives but they seek closure and the truth on the decision to send them into mortal danger. They want to believe that the soldier’s lives were lost in pursuit of a noble cause. But the doubts remain.
Another pressing reason for transparency is that MPs now take the ultimate decisions on war. It’s not the Prime Minister. The Commons’ rejection of David Cameron’s call to arms in Syria on August 29th last year proved that. To reach proper judgement we need to be informed on past blunders.
The Commons Public Administration Committee (PASC) in 2008 called for the Chilcot Inquiry. When it was announced that it was to be held in secret, we objected. Recently we decided to probe the four-year delay in publishing the conclusions. When parliament resumes I am sure PASC will take a strong line in demanding full disclosure. Otherwise, as John Major said, ‘suspicions will fester’.