While Blair’s motives may have been honourable – a matter of debate – Campbell has form in peddling untruths.
While being interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, the former Number 10 press secretary Alastair Campbell became highly emotional when he was challenged that Tony Blair had misled the House of Commons when he claimed before the 2003 Coalition invasion that it was “beyond doubt” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Of course, we now know, following the death of Dr David Kelly, that there was plenty of doubt about this, and it is obvious, based on the evidence which includes testimony before the Chilcott Enquiry from Blair and Campbell, that Parliament was indeed grievously misled, on an issue of the greatest gravity for the country.
The last lie of this kind was probably Selwyn Lloyd’s false assurance after the Suez crisis in 1956 that there had been “no collusion” with Israel prior to the Anglo-French intervention in the Canal Zone. In reality, of course, there was no better word than “collusion” to describe the Anglo-Israeli plot in which Lloyd, then Foreign Secretary, had participated in.
However, that untruth was delivered to Parliament long after the conflict, and was part of a post facto cover-up. In Blair’s case, his assurance was given before hostilities, and was in the context of a Commons vote to authorize military action.
In other words, Parliamentary support for the Iraq invasion depended the information he provided to the Commons, and while one can only speculate if his government would have received the same majority in the division lobby if the unvarnished truth had been revealed, the fact remains that MPs voted without having the true facts.
And while several people should share the blame for this, the burden falls mainly on Blair and Campbell. While Blair’s motives may have been honourable – and that is obviously a matter of debate – Campbell has plenty of form in peddling untruths. After all, for years before he joined Blair, he was Robert Maxwell’s principal apologist.