Despite five previous enquiries into the Iraq war taking place without any serious repercussions, the timing of the Chilcot Inquiry is hardly ideal for Gordon Brown.
Previously, it had been deemed unfair for the sitting Prime Minister to be forced to appear before the next general election.
However, in an unexpected turn of events, it has now emerged that Brown will appear before the election. He is scheduled to appear in either late February or early March.
With a general election due to take place in May of this year, and with polls currently pointing to a Tory win, the Prime Minister’s willingness to comply with the Inquiry may be to avoid awkward questions from the press about his motivations for delay. The risk of this, though, is that Brown could halt the momentum of Labour’s election campaign if he fairs badly.
The Conservatives have already begun capitalising on the Inquiry. David Cameron has previously stated, “Won’t everyone conclude that this Inquiry has been fixed?”
A lot is at stake for Labour, and there is little chance that the Inquiry will have a positive impact on their standing in the opinion polls.
So far the highlight of the Inquiry has been Alastair Campbell, the now infamous ‘Spin Doctor’ for the Blair Regime, whose predictably slippery answers provided little more than a sympathetic, pointed finger at Tony Blair.
Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary at the time of the war, appeared last week and is the first serving cabinet minister to appear at the Inquiry. He claimed that he had “very reluctantly” supported the war. In addition to this, he said going to war was one of the “most difficult decisions” he has ever made.
It seems that until former Prime Minister Tony Blair appears on the 29th of January, many questions about the reasons for invading Iraq will remain unanswered. In the meantime the Inquiry is left filtering through officials who played minor roles in the build up to the war.
When Brown does take the stage, we will see his close connection with Blair scrutinized
When Brown does take to the stage, it is likely we will see his close connection with Blair scrutinized, along with his controversial budget cuts to the war effort. Brown is going to have to approach a difficult pro-war attitude for the sake of consistency, while balancing negative public opinion at the same time.
Although the Inquiry is going to delve deeper than its predecessors, there is little evidence to believe that the outcome will have serious consequences for any of those involved. The Inquiry’s greatest effect however will most likely be in the opinion polls, where Labour are already trailing behind The Conservatives.