Afternoon all – welcome to week seven of the Iraq Inquiry. A mixed bag of witnesses this week; a scattering of permanent secretary civil servants but also some political big guns like Geoff Hoon and Jack Straw, tomorrow and Thursday respectively.
Five words I never quite thought I’d hear, let alone use myself, but Geoff Hoon could be interesting following his and Pat Hewitt’s recent toys/pram hoo-hah.
It rather depends on which paper you read or leaks you believe (often amounts to the same thing) but reports suggest that Hoon is either “poised to wreak further revenge on the prime minister over his funding of the armed forces” or face allegations that he himself “denied Iraq soldiers equipment that could have saved lives”. Glad that’s clear then.
This afternoon’s witness doesn’t quite fall into either camp. The title “chief of staff” feels, dare I say it, a little American, not quite the way we “do” things over here: I can’t help but think of Leo McGarry to President Bartlet or even Silvio Dante to Tony Soprano.
Which is neither to say that Jonathan Powell is or at any time has been a recovering alcoholic Democrat or a New Jersey consigliere. He worked at the heart of Downing Street from 1997 to 2007 – staying on longer than Alastair Campbell or almost any of the other New Labour luminaries.
Powell’s role in the tectonic plate shifts that ended in war was revealed by the Hutton Inquiry – in particular an email he sent Campbell on 19 September 2002 in which he suggests that JIC boss John Scarlett remove part of that month’s dossier which made it sound as though Saddam would only use WMD if threatened – calling it “a bit of a problem”.
He also famously asked Campbell “What will be the headline in the Standard on day of publication. What do we want it to be?” I suspect he won’t be terribly disappointed if he doesn’t feature in this evening’s headlines at all. Let’s see.