9 June 2003

Tinker, tailor, spinner, spy
The irony is that the Prime Minister's reluctance to have the truth of all this investigated by an independent inquiry presided over by a judge stretches him on the same sort of rack that he used against Saddam Hussein. In the prologue to the conflict, Ministers asserted, and none more evangelically than Mr Blair himself, that if the Iraqi dictator had nothing to hide, then he would be fully co-operative with the arms inspectors.

That argument is now turned against Mr Blair. If he has genuinely nothing to fear from the truth, then he should be prepared to establish a comprehensive, independent inquiry.

I am surprised by this development. The antiwar majorities disappeared from the polls in Britain and Australia almost as soon as war began. If those majorities now decide that war was based on a lie, that's grim, sad news for Blair and Howard. Howard is already falling back on the predictable defence that he accepted intelligence given to him by the US and UK governments. I am not sure if that argument will run in Australia. It certainly has no traction in Britain.

My guess is that there will be an inquiry and that its findings will have massive impact in Canberra and Washington as well as London. To survive, Blair needs a good explanation for the total absence of a vast arsenal ready to fire in 45 minutes. A couple of contested trailers of mass destruction are no longer enough.

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