Scottish Daily Mail
W hat irony! The human snail drives a Porsche
WHILE we regret those past political mistakes now haunting our present — in the form of terrorism and a grave refugee crisis — for Porsche-driving Sir John Chilcot, 76, they have at least provided a comfortable old age.
His long-delayed report into our failed invasion in Iraq, which has taken six years and cost £10million, is now due to appear next June.
We can’t even be sure of that date. It might be July, or later.
Originally, Sir John said it would appear in 2010. So why has it taken so long when the need to know what went wrong now seems so urgent?
Because, we are advised, those likely to be criticised, including Tony Blair, had to be given the opportunity of rebuttal.
That turned out to be bogus. There was no such requirement.
It was also claimed that civil servants decided to withhold vital documents. That was nonsense, too.
If documents were withheld, the prime ministers who were then in charge — Gordon Brown and David Cameron — are responsible. The only question is: why did they think such withholding was desirable?
The real reason for the leisurely pace of the report is that neither of the major political parties was that keen on it in the first place — and the fact that, whatever it concludes, it has no power to punish the guilty.
What both the Labour and Tory leadership were keen on in 2003 was invading Iraq along with the U.S. Like schoolgirls in the presence of One Direction, both Blair and Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith respectively longed to be liked by President George W. Bush.
Is this the real reason why Sir John and his team were given such an open-ended brief and all the time in the world?
It might also be why an inquiry into how we were misled about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction is being conducted by a retired civil servant, not a sitting judge.
Having the Chilcot Inquiry set up in this way meant that gross actions by politicians and civil servants — ie, lying in order to get us into a war — could not be identified as criminal behaviour.
SIr John has been paid £790 a day — which amounts to more than £200,000 a year for the past six years. This is on top of his pension as a senior civil servant, which is likely to be generous. His three committee members get £595 a day (a fourth member died in February this year). Despite frequent protests by ministers, including the Prime Minister, about how much time he is taking, Sir John and Co remain unhurried.
The Sun on Sunday, which has been monitoring his comings and goings, says he spent about three hours a day at his Westminster office during August.
He worked about 16 hours over the course of one fortnight, averaging a little over an hour a day. Last week, he was able to leave his London flat around noon for a four-hour drive (in his Porsche Macan 4x4) to his detached home in Devon.
Sir John’s team and their advisers were estimated this year to have shared about £1.5 million in fees.
Jake Berry, the Tory MP for rossendale and Darwen — one of many parliamentarians who deplore Sir John’s snail-like pace — says: ‘This sort of work-rate confirms what we have all suspected: that there’s no element of urgency in this inquiry. ‘It’s completely unacceptable.’ So why is it accepted? Because there’s nothing to be done short of sacking Sir John and his team. Which, this late in the day, would merely confirm what a dubious, weaselly set-up it was in the first place.