Chilcot clutching at Straw

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I’m determined not to get my hopes up regarding the Chilcot Inquiry, but I have to say that I found Sir Michael Wood’s revelations about Jack Straw’s attitude fascinating.

Jack Straw is an impressive political survivor. Aside from Gordon Brown, he is the only person who has been in cabinet continuously from 1997 to the present day. He’s managed to do this despite leaving a wave of destruction in his wake. The systems that would eventually lead to the Home Office being declared “not fit for purpose” originated under Straw’s watch. Then of course there was the Iraq War itself while Straw was at the FCO. More recently, we had his handling of party funding while Leader of the House (which went nowhere) and his three years at Justice where he has achieve precisely nothing. The latter two, I’ve always suspected, were part of the plan all along. Either way, his role in government has been one of slick, professional incompetence.

Yet throughout this period his position has never been under threat. Much of that is because he is a suave operator, calm under pressure. He always comes across as thoroughly decent and earnest, even when mentally you know he is uttering the most egregious bullshit.

The way Sir Michael has essentially contradicted Straw’s own account last week is the first time I’ve ever seen anything resembling a chink in his armour. It reveals a man with an incredibly lackadaisical attitude to official advice, even on matters as utterly important as the decision to go to war. The picture Sir Michael paints is something that I don’t think we’ve ever seen in the mainstream media before (although it will look remarkably familiar to anyone who has worked near the political coalface over the past decade or so).

I’m sure it won’t lead to his downfall, but it is nice to see a corrective – however minor – after all this time.

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