The Deputy Prime Minister has called for the publication of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War, according to Sky News. Nick Clegg claimed the country needs to “understand the truth” about the conflict and those responsible should accept its time to publish.
The inquiry, headed by Sir John Chilcot, was set up in 2009 and saw its last witness in February 2011, but the report has not yet been published. The delay is thought to be because of arguments about which documents can be published.
It is currently expected to be published next year, a few months before the 2015 General Election.
Clegg’s intervention in the debate about when to publish the report comes at a curious time. The Iraq War remains unpopular in Britain and the report is likely to be extremely critical of the Labour Government that took the country into the conflict.
Publication shortly before the 2015 General Election could dig Clegg out of his electoral hole and potentially save a number of marginal seats that are currently under threat. The Liberal Democrats are at 9 percent in the polls, down from 23 percent in the 2010 election.
The call to publish comes as Clegg faces growing pressure to explain his actions, or lack of them, over former Rochdale MP, Cyril Smith. Sir Cyril is now widely accepted to have been a prolific sex offender, having been arrested multiple times for child sex crimes. At the weekend Breitbart London reported that the authorities are aware of 144 victims, some of whom were as young as 8 when they were abused.
Westminster insiders believe that if Clegg can get the report published fast he can guarantee the media will suddenly forget about Smith and concentrate instead on Tony Blair’s relationship with George W. Bush.
Rumours had suggested that Tony Blair himself was delaying the report, but his spokesman said it was “completely wrong” to suggest the former Prime Minister was the cause. He went on to say that Blair has “as much reason as anyone for wanting the report published”.
Blair is likely to want the report out sooner rather than later to help Labour’s electoral chances in 2015. It would be in Labour’s interests to see the report published later this year, after the European Elections next month. This will give them time to repair any damage done before the country goes to the polls in May 2015.
At a press conference in Westminster, Clegg said: “Clearly I think everybody would like, after this very long period of time, for the Chilcot inquiry to be published.
“I’m sure Chilcot himself would like to get on with it as quickly as possible because he has been at this now for a long period of time.
“I can’t comment on exactly the reasons why, given that there was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about what is finally produced in published form in the report, exactly what the hold-up now is.
“This involves a lot of people, it involves a lot of legalities and of course deals with a very, very sensitive issue.
“But I really do hope now that everybody involved, including those who know they will be subject to renewed scrutiny within the Chilcot report, that they will now accept that it is just time to get this report published so that the record can be scrutinised in the most objective way possible.”
Tony Blair has already faced significant criticism for his role in the war on Iraq. He was accused of agreeing to the release of the so-called “dodgy dossier” which detailed a fictitious case for war. He has also been blamed for the lack of thought that went into nation building after Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled.
A total of 179 British Soldiers were killed in the conflict along with an estimated 500,000 Iraqis, the Liberal Democrats opposed Britain’s involvement in the war.