14 September 2003

The questions keep coming

In what is almost certainly the most potentially damaging revelation yet about the build-up to the conflict, we now know that on 10 February this year, the Prime Minister was warned by the Joint Intelligence Committee that al-Qaeda and its lethal fellow travellers 'continued to represent by far the greatest threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq.'

Downing Street was initially a bit slow to see the significance of this disclosure and the danger it poses to the Prime Minister. Number 10 only began to respond when the remorseless Robin Cook, that one-man precision weapon, launched himself on the airwaves to say that this warning that war would not curb terror but aggravate the threat had not been shared with the Cabinet, never mind Parliament and the public.

Number 10 countered that the assessment was circulated to all of Mr Blair's senior colleagues, among them the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary, and not forgetting - Number 10 would be very sure not to neglect to put his name on the list - the Chancellor. In other words, if withholding this information comes to be regarded as a deception, all of Mr Blair's most plausible replacements were party to it as well.

But was it shared with Australia?

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