Juncker is Symbol Not Cause of Cameron Opposition to EU

Daniela Schwarzer runs the German Marshall Fund of the US in Berlin. She has written an article posted by British Influence http://bit.ly/1nOE0AP arguing that the UK opposition to Jean Claude Juncker is correct as his nomination represents a deepening of the EU integration project. Her nuanced article is first-rate but her argument that the arrival of Juncker as EU Commission President is unacceptable and could lead to Britian leaving the EU is not backed by a sense of history as I argue below in a comment posted on the GMFUS web site.

Sorry but the idea that the emergence of JC Juncker will take UK out of EU is just wrong. In 1997, the English Conservative Party went into their longest period of opposition since the 19th century. They decided to make hostility to the EU, the leitmotif of their Innenpolitik. The language of unreserved hostility to Brussels, to the EU, to Tony Blair (seen then as pro-European) was relenting and sustained by all four Conservative Party leaders ever since. It has been impossible to be selected as a Conservative MP without swearing an oath against Europe. Tory leaders made the demand for a referendum their main appeal – on the EU Constitution, on Lisbon Treaty and now In-Out. It really is important for analysts in Eurozone Europe to understand how profoundly political and existential the Conservative Party opposition to the EU now is. No-one in London knew who Juncker was six months ago and no-one paid any attention to the workings of European political parties even though they had signalled for years the idea of putting up candidates in an ersatz Commission president contest via the EP vote. In 3 months Juncker will be forgotten like Jacques Santer was. But the Conservative opposition to the EU cannot be managed by installing someone else a EU Spitzenfigur. This is as profound a transformation of the Conservative Party as happened over free trade or catholic emancipation or irish home rule. David Cameron is prisoner of a party which he does not lead on Europe because he is himself the generational product of a profoundly anti-EU ideology within the party. There is not much Mrs Merkel or Brussels can do. This has to be worked out within the pathology of British political identity.

Downing Street Fabulating on London Accepting French Veto in 2004 on EU Commission President

No 10 Spin Machine Now in Fantasy Land Over Claims France Vetoed Chris Patten as EU Commission President

By Denis MacShane

Over the weekend the official 10 Downing Street press machine told political editors that in 2004 the UK proposed Chris Patten as EU Commission President and when France objected Britain gracefully gave way.

Here is the statement as sent out

“The Prime Minister will call for a vote at this week’s European Council if President Van Rompuy seeks to push through Jean-Claude Juncker as the Council’s nomination for Commission President.

The unprecedented vote would be a break away from the traditional approach of the European Council which has always found a consensual candidate for Commission President. In 2004 the UK did not force through Chris Patten as Commission President because France were vehemently opposed, even though he had sufficient support from other countries for the required qualified majority vote.”

For the record this is absolute rubbish and Downing Street have gone beyond being economical and told a direct untruth.

There was no qualified majority vote in 2004 – the choice of EU Commission President required unanimity.

I was Europe Minister at the time and to my certain knowledge Chris Patten was never put up by Blair to be Commission President.

I am a Patten fan but by 2004 Patten was seen by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as un-helpful because he was writing coded anti-Bush articles.

If anything Paris would have liked Patten as a real pro-EU Brit even if Chris could not speak French – a condition France tends to insist on in a Commission President. 2004 was a tricky year on the EU constitution so it would have been mad for Blair to propose someone loathed as a Europhile by most Tory MPs and Euroscep press.

But although anyone can say a name was mentioned I am as sure as I can be that Chris (who I liked loads) was never in the frame. I kept daily detailed diaries and Chris was tired after long exhausting years as Hong Kong supremo and then EU For Affairs boss. He had heart trouble and needed a break.

Paris was 100 per cent behind Guy Verhofstadt and Chirac got Schroeder to agree to support Verhofstadt’s candidature as part of the Franco-German rapprochement after 2002 on Iraq and CAP reform. Paris and Berlin opposed both at odds with Blair’s position.

Blair vetoed Verhofstadt and instead proposed José Manuel Barroso who as Portugal’s PM has supported the Iraq war (he hosted the famous Azores summit of Bush, Blair, Berlusconi and Aznar that endorsed the invasion). Barroso spoke fluent French and European, was pro-market, acceptable to Washington, and was a friendly guy who had no enemies.

Cameron’s chief-of-staff ,Ed Llewlyn, worked for Chris Patten in Hong Kong and maybe he has a memory of Chris dreaming of being EU Commission President. And of course Tony Blair was a genius at letting anyone leave a chat with him believing that Tony was his biggest friend and supporter.

Camerson should not now be dishonestly briefing that in 2004 Paris blocked Patten and London accepted this and so France should now accept London’s claim it has the right to veto Juncker. This is total couilles. There are many good arguments against Juncker but so far Cameron has been advancing the wrong ones.

This latest bit of nonsense is well below the status of the UK diplomatic style.

The Juncker soap opera is do with internal party political management in the UK (Labour and the LibDems) as well as Cameron trying to show his anti-EU, Brexit MPs that he can stand up against Brussels.

But to my pretty certain knowledge and I worked closely with French ministers and officials there was never any serious proposal for Chris Patten to be Commission President and hence no French veto.

Denis MacShane

Should Britain Have Stayed Out of WW1

There was an interesting review by Joe Haines in Tribune of a book by David Owen on the medical and mental state of the political leaders who took Britain to war in 1914. The implication of the book and the review was that Britain could have stayed out of the conflict much as many argue that we can opt out of the EU.

Below a letter published in Tribune 13th June

I enjoyed Joe Haines’ review of what is clearly a important book on how Britain might have stayed out of the First World War written by David Owen and published by the excellent Haus outfit, one of our nimbler, creative independent publishers.(Tribune 16 May)
But are David Owen and Joe Haines seriously arguing that Britain should have stayed neutral and come to an understanding over Germany’s territorial ambitions as Hitler hoped we would do 25 years later? For five centuries Britain has had sadly to send soldiers to fight and die on the continent because to allow a single power, faith or ideology utterly to dominate Europe, as Wilhelmine Germany would have done if Britain had betrayed France and Belgium in 1914, would have crushed protestant, trading, liberal, parliamentarian England.
The Royal Navy did indeed blockade and stop Atlantic trade with Germany but it made little difference.
The idea that better diplomacy would have persuaded Russia not to back Serbia or Germany not to back Austria is silly. Today, our leaders were incapable of stopping a decade long war in the Balkans and thousands have been killed or injured in pointless conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan while David Cameron and William Hague were keen to bomb Syria to help jihadis win control of government there. Our diplomacy has been unable to stop Russian annexing part of an independent UN sovereign state or occupying and create puppet statelets in Georgia.
There is one bright light in this glum story. Joe Haines and David Owen were able to live in peace and become prosperous because the survivors of World War One who came to power after 1945 created Nato and the European Union and so despite similar tensions, hates, territorial disputes, and open violent conflicts the integration and construction of Europe has prevented another 1914 or 1939. It is strange that so many want to destroy that achievement and return to disputatious, egoistical nations as the main organising project for peoples in Europe.
Joe Haines seems to be concerned that Asquith drank too much. So did Churchill and John Smith as George Foulkes gently says in his column on our lost leader. Better a squiffy Asquith and pissed Churchill than a teetotal Hitler or George W Bush. Come to think of it, has anyone seen Putin with a glass of chilled vodka in his hand?

General Jaruzelski – Party Hack in Polish Uniform

This is my obituary in Tribune of General Jaruzelski

General Wojceich Jaruzelski, 6 July 1923 – 25 May 2014

Poland has never been lucky with its generals. One, the strongly anti-Soviet General Sikorski, died in mysterious circumstances off Gibraltar during the war when his plane crashed at a time when Kim Philby was in the vicinity. As Europe minister I laid a wreath on the waters of Gib on the 60th anniversary of Sikorski’s death in 2003. Another General Bor-Komoroswki initiated the disastrous Warsaw Uprising of 1944. He ended his days as a house-painter in London. Now the General who crushed the Solidarity trade union in December 1981 has died. Wojceich Jaruzelski was a political officer from the moment he first put on uniform to act as a loyal agent of Stalin in the Kremlin controlled army of Poles that fought on the eastern front 1944-1945.
He ended in the 1980s as general secretary of Poland’s communist party, prime minister and head of the armed services. I bumped into him in Warsaw on the Polish National Day celebrations in May 1981 when most of the marchers carried Solidarity banners and flags. Jaruzelski was there in his drab uniform and trademark dark glasses. A Polish friend pushed me forward to say hello and shake his hand. So disorganized was the Polish state by the challenge of Solidarity that I was allowed to mingle with the head of state like a Unite branch secretary chatting to David Cameron.
A year later in May 1982 Jaruzelski’s goons arrested me after I had taken some money to the underground Solidarity printing operation. It is never nice to be in prison but Poland by then had turned its back on the more vicious violence of the Soviet Union.
We still do not know who ordered the suppression of Solidaity in December 1981. But it turned into comunism’s last gasp. 25 years ago this summer Jaruzelski agreed to round-table talks with Solidarity. It led to the communist world’s first free elections and the tipped 20th century communism into the dustbin of history.
Poland buried communism months before the Berlin Wall came down.
The Poles like the South Africans after Mandela led them from apartheid to democracy did not turn in on themselves. There were no revenge trials. Jaruzelski lived out his last quarter of a century in comfort in Warsaw just as Robert Mugabe allowed Ian Smith a comfortable retirement in Zimbabwe. It is a more intelligent way of dealing with ex dictators then sending them to the ICC or killing them in a dusty gutter in Libya.
The real change after 1980 took place in Moscow as Stalinism morphed into the corruption of Breshnev and the KGB realized it was game over and started training their next generation to become oligarchs and servants of Putin. Poland just had to endure 8 years of Jarulzeksi and he had to wait before bowing to the inevitable in 1989. A time-server for sure but perhaps the man who had sufficient authority in the party and army in 1981 and thereafter to prevent an all-out bloodbath.
It is not clear if he was buried in uniform but at the least his party card should have been placed in the coffin. He was born six years after the Bolshevik revolution and died as the most corrupt and decadent capitalism reigns triumphantly in Russia.

Denis MacShane, the former Europe minister wrote the first book on Solidarity in English in 1981

David Cameron’s Chutzpah

This article was published in the Huffington Post UK June 13th (http://huff.to/1ol4fFi)

David Cameron’s Chutzpah

There is a magnificent Yiddish word – chutzpah – to describe an abuse of truth so brazen that people almost believe the speaker.

The English prime minister is offering Europe a spectacle of chutzpah which takes the breath away.

In a series of article in European papers Mr Cameron is trying to persuade readers that a return to the worst tradition of European Union secrecy and private trades between bureaucrats on behalf of their masters is actually a major increase in EU democracy.

Mr Cameron does not want the Luxembourg politician, Jean Claude Juncker, to be the next president of the European Commission.

That is a defendable position. In a meeting in London during the European Parliament election campaign, the French socialist MEP, Pervès Berenche, made a powerful critique of Mr Juncker.

She pointed out he was a defender of banking secrecy in Europe’s on-shore tax haven state of Luxembourg. He presided over the austerity ideology which has led to 26 million unemployed and driven millions of voters into the hands of populist parties of the hard right and demagogic left.

There is nothing new in this. The anti-Brussels French Communist Party won 21 per cent of the vote in the first European Parliament election in 1979. In her rhetoric against Brussels and in denouncing the presence of immigrant workers in France Marine Le Pen is a worthy successor to the Stalinist big mouth French communist leader of the 1970s, Georges Marchais.

Mr Juncker is exhausted after 16 years as prime minister. Even his admirers agree he does not have the stamina for a relentless 18-hour-a-day job.

But the reasons Mr Cameron does not like Mr Juncker are not because he is a classic conservative supporter of banking secrecy and global capitalism.

The real reason is that for the first time in years, the British prime minister has lost the power to chose a European Commission president.

The last three Commission presidents, José Manuel Barroso, Romano Prodi and Jacques Santer were imposed by London. Tony Blair and before him John Major vetoed proposals from Paris or Berlin and waited until their choice took over as no one else was left.

Now that veto power has been lost. It is a majority vote that decides the Commission president. That sounds like more not less democracy.

Another change is that the European Parliament has more of say in two ways. The Lisbon Treaty says the heads of government must take into account the votes for MEPs. And then MEPs have to vote in favour of the proposed candidate.

This is not perfect democracy but it responds to the widespread view that too much of what happens in Brussels is decided behind closed doors between national government officials with no room for the views of the voters of Europe.

The idea of turning the European Parliament election into a contest for the next Commission President has been around for years. The French politician, Pierre Moscovici wrote a tribune in Le Monde a decade ago ‘Donnez nous un president pour l’Europe’. (Give us a President for Europe)

The political parties of Europe accepted this idea and in democratic congresses chose their lead candidates – Mr Juncker for the centre-right, the German social democrat, Martin Schulz for the democratic left and Guy Verhofstadt for the Liberals.

No British minister or editor protested at the time that this process was wrong or undemocratic. It is imperfect. But so is all democracy. Mr Cameron says Mr Juncker did not get a majority endorsement of voters. But in 2010, Mr Cameron was rejected by two-thirds of British voters but still emerged as prime minister.

It is sheer chutzpah now to say that voters who chose EPP MEPs ahead of other rival candidates should now be treated with contempt.

Mr Cameron wants to show to his increasingly anti-European Conservative Party and to the Murdoch press as well as the other Europhobe media in London that he can be tough in Europe. Once again he wants to boast that a British prime minister can impose a veto against a candidate for the post of Commission president. London is back dictating to Europe what is permitted and what is forbidden.

At the same time Mr Cameron’s MEPs have voted to enter into an alliance with the nationalist demagogic Alternative fur Deutschland, the anti-Merkel German party, as well as with racist Danish MEPs and anti-EU Finnish MEPs.

If Mr Cameron wants to work with Europe he is sending out all the wrong signals. Chutzpah can amuse. But there are limits. If the rest of Europe gives into Mr Cameron’s blackmail he will come back for more.

Denis MacShane was the UK’s Minister for Europe in the government of Tony Blair





Can Merkel Lead Europe

Carnegie Europe asked me (and others) the question : Is Angela Merkel Europe’s Leader

My response below

In football terms, Angela Merkel is Europe’s back four. She stops goals being scored, but she does not know how to score them. She is Europe’s leader faute de mieux for three reasons.

First, no other country has offered leadership. France’s erratic former president Nicolas Sarkozy and weak incumbent François Hollande are not EU players in the way previous leaders François Mitterrand or Valéry Giscard d’Estaing were. The UK under former prime minister Gordon Brown and his successor, David Cameron, has been an EU outlier. Italy under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, now with the largest bloc of center-left members of the European Parliament (31), may play a role, but the country remains so weak economically.

Second, thanks to the reforms enacted by the previous German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, which Merkel has lived off, Germany emerged as Europe’s only strong economy after 2008. This meant endless demands on German money, which pushed Merkel onto the defensive domestically. Former chancellor Helmut Kohl could sign any check to Europe. Merkel cannot.

Third, the rise of German post–Cold War neutralism means Merkel is not a strong U.S. ally and cannot be the No. 1 American partner on the continent in the way that past chancellors Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, or Kohl were.

So Merkel can block but not initiate. Her crab-walk style suits a Germany that does not want to bother or be bothered by the outside world. She is the most powerful leader in the EU but has no idea where or how to lead Europe.

2003 – My Warning on Islamist Ideology

Below is part of an interview Jackie Ashley did with me for the Guardian in which I warned on the rise of Islamist ideology and the damage it would do to young British Muslims. No one listened then and I am not sure they are listening now


Jackie Ashley
The Guardian, Monday 24 November 2003 09.17 GMT
There are two Denis MacShanes. There is the multilingual, debonair Ministre Britannique who pops up constantly across Europe – a front-page article for Le Monde here, a warm-up speech for the German chancellor there, and the kind of treatment in Le Figaro magazine normally reserved for local heroes, with glossy pictures of Denis posing in his chinos and button-down shirt, or jogging through the streets of Paris.
He is lauded as “un Anglais qui aime la France”, and reassures readers that the anti-French campaigns of popular British newspapers need not be taken at all seriously; we only use them to “emballer nos fish and chips”.

And then there is the MP for Rotherham, Foreign Office minister and euro-nut, who agrees that there’s a bit of the loneliness of the long-distance runner about him – particularly on the euro – as he pounds round Hyde Park at 6 o’clock most mornings.

This second Denis MacShane, a former journalist, has a liking for the vibrant word or phrase which often lands him in hot water. His latest pronouncement was over British Muslim loyalties, when he said the community had to choose between Britain and extremist conceptions of Islam.

We meet on the morning of the suicide bombings in Istanbul. MacShane is truly shocked by the murder of so many, among them a British diplomat. “The one thing being a Foreign Office minister does is to reveal how thinly stretched British diplomacy is,” he says, “and how very dedicated men and women serve their country, often in lonely and exposed parts of the world – and now, one sees, sacrifice their lives.”

It is later that day that he releases the text of a speech he is making in his constituency, only to drop a phrase about British Muslims having to make a choice between the British way or the values of terrorism, after an angry eruption from Muslim organisations.

When I ask him about it later he does not backtrack: “It is one thing to condemn al-Qaida attacks, but the real challenge is to change mentality so that there is no support for any violence of any sort – including in the Middle East or Kashmir – in order to obtain a political end.

“A young South Yorkshire Yemeni, who was 22, has just killed himself in a suicide terrorist attack, and we all have to ask ourselves what kind of hate messages against democratic values so scrambled his head that he followed the terrorist road, instead of a bright future in Britain.”

Doesn’t it all smack a bit of Norman Tebbit and his famous “cricket test” for ethnic minorities (who do you cheer for, England or Pakistan?).

“I certainly don’t want to be associated with Tebbit,” he says, but he’s not taking any flak from certain Muslim groups either: “I am comforted by the fact that there were elected Muslim councillors at my constituency meeting, and they supported me, which is more important than the views of self-appointed spokesmen in London.”

Not much fence-mending there.

EP Elections – Important or Irrelevant


The mess over choosing the next EU Commission President Worsens

Carnegie Europe’s excellent director, Jan Techau, wrote a comment yesterday arguing that a false promise was made to EU electors that their votes would help decide who the next Commission president would be.You can read full article here http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=55778

I took issue with Jan in tweets which is never satisfactory and then wrote these two comments on the Carnegie website below his article.


Thanks Jan but respectfully why did you and Tim Garton Ash and everyone write and write and write about the ‘Democratic Deficit’ and tell the world that all decisions were taken undemocratically behind closed doors.

The culture that the EU was run by technocrats without any democratic accountability is one of the poisonous lies of the last 15-20 years.

I opposed the PES going in for nominating a Commission president for the 2009 election but the main governing parties, above all in Germany, insisted and insisted on having a presidential context election.

It was an old cry of Joschka Fischer and Pierre Moscovici wrote ‘Donnez-nous un president pour l’Europe’ in Le Monde a decade ago. Please send me all the elite EU opinion-formers who opposed the idea in recent years. Now it has come to a choice of Jean Claude Juncker everyone is excited and hostile.

Instead names like the classic Wall St-Davos-IMF elite insider Mme Lagarde is proposed. I think she and Juncker have to accept some blame for the disaster of 2008 and the dreadful austerity ideology that has led to Europe’s lost decade and 26 million out of work.


It is not that we have a roomful of brilliant EU Commission presidents. Yes it will revert to a closed corridor secret deal based on squalid trades and in a few months we can say ‘Habemus presidentem’ and then you and others will complain that the EU is secret, unaccountable and has a democratic deficit!

(There were one or two more comments and today I added this one)

It is an important point namely that the EU treaty makes it clear since Lisbon six years ago that elections to the EP were now part of the Commission president selection process.

Off hand I do not recall any of the EU commentariat criticising this.  On the contrary they constantly moaned and denounced the democratic deficit.

I did not because  on the whole I think the EU is not a construct that can replace national democracy. I have argued and written over a decade for a senate of national parliaments to be a filter though which EP decisions should go.

This has not made me popular with MEPs who think the executive heads of government in the Council are a kind of second chamber which is silly. The exclusion of around 10,000+ national parliamentarians from any part of EU decision making has contributed to the rise of the feeling that Brussels is out of touch etc.

I also opposed the PES naming a Spitzenkandidat for 2009 election when I represented Labour on it. But the Juncker-Schulz-Verhofstadt contest was a genuine attempt to get some democratic competition into the process.

I am sorry so many friends especially from UK media are dumping on it.

I do not think Juncker is right man but the more the UK elite media trash him and more he is difficult to dump.

Cameron has made another tactical error in com in out as the ‘Kill Juncker’ man. He may claim credit for internal UK political reasons if finally Juncker isn’t chosen but at the price of further presenting the UK as being unwilling ever to work constructively in Europe.

If Juncker does get it, then Cameron is humiliated. Lose-lose for the UK.

Finally I have been checking French and German media on Reuters story that Merkel has asked Hollande to propose Lagarde.  I can’t find anything. Not saying it’s untrue but if it was serious I would have though it would have surfaced by now?


Oddly enough as David Charter reported in The Times a short while ago Juncker is the only candidate who has expressed sympathy for UK and said efforts must be made to avoid Brexit.  Hug him close, Dave. He may be a better friend than you realise!

Chilcot Will Never Bring Closure

Chilcot Can Never Bring Closure


Sadly the Chilcot inquiry with or without the full content of any letters between Tony Blair and George W Bush will never bring closure. No enquiry of this sort ever has. The Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday has never healed the wound of the unarmed Derry citizens shot in the back by British soldiers. The Dardenelles inquiry into the disastrous 1915 campaigned that cost the lives of 35,000 British men and  left a further 70,000 maimed for life sat for three years and produced no answers.

The idea that one man was responsible for duping a nation and tricking it into war in order to please his pal in the White House is a reductio ad absurdum that dishonours the lives lost. It is almost beyond parody that Sir John Major, the prime minister, who sat on his hands as 8,000 Europeans were taken out and murdered in cold blood, in the worst massacre in Europe since 1945 and whose diplomats were ordered to resist at the UN any intervention in Rwanda should now be on airwaves whining about his successor.

There are criticisms a-plenty that can be leveled at Tony Blair.  But they need to be levelled at 416 other men and women who representing the nation decided that the Brtiish soldiers already deployed on Iraq’s borders should move in and dislodge the Iraqi dictator who had been successfully defying UN resolutions for 12 years.

History will judge that all the interventions by northern military powers in majority Muslim nations since 1979 beginning with Moscow’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 turned out to be strategic catastrophes. Davis Cameron has sustained a pointless war in Helmand costing the lives of nearly 500 British soldiers since 2010 long after other loyal American allies like Canada brought their troops home. Even the smaller conflicts like the Cameron-Sarkozy ousting of Gadafi has turned Libya into a charnel house, a Jihadi central with endless arms to sell and use.

In the 2002 debate in the Commons on the so-called dodgy dossier, William Hague told MPs that Saddam Hussain had 400 secret installations where weapons of mas destruction were being concealed.

Robin Cook had used similar language in 1998 when telling the Commons about the hidden reserves of Sarin gas and chemical weapons that justified, he told MPs, British military action against Saddam in the form of no-fly zones and attacks on Iraqi military installations.

To be sure, Cook resigned during the debate in 2003 but if he harboued such doubts why wait so long? One of the most important aspects of the Iraq war was the extent to which it was fully endorsed by the Conservative Party in the Commons. Have David Cameron or William Hague ever said they were wrong?

Another puzzle is why did not a single civil servant resign other than one FCO lawyer? I worked as No 2 in the Foreign Office at the time and I never heard Jack Straw or any minister express concern that we were heading for a disaster. Since then there has been much distancing by former ministers and diplomats but their courage after the event and their wisdom once it was clear Iraq had become a disaster is rather cheap. Had the invasion been a success as the Kuwait conflict was they would have all proudly claimed some credit.

There was a generational problem that should be explored. The MPs elected in 1997 and many of the key commentators had been sickened by the non-interventionism of the 1990s which had seen Srebrenica and Rwanda take place without opposition from the democracies.

The concepts of le droit d’ingérence (right to intervene) and R2P (Right to Protect) were developed by political scientist and philosophers and lawyers argued for the creation of an International Criminal Court.

Britain intervened in Sierra Leone, in Indonesia and in Kosovo – the latter without UN approval but with strong backing as the world finally rose up in disgust to stop the next Milosevic genocidal murders. 250 Kosovan bodies have just been discovered at a mass grave in South East Serbia as a reminder of why Britain intervened.

Was there a feeling that Saddam was another Slobodan and a few cruise missiles and cold steel on the ground would knock him off and usher in a better Iraq?  Almost certainly yes. Were there high-level warnings it would turn into a disaster? No or at least none that changed the minds of the 417 MPs who voted for war.

Chilcot has been on mission impossible. A retired anti-Blair ambassador criticized the Commission because it had two Jews on it, a reminder of the latent anti-semitism in the English establishment. The Commission ignored the wider European context, the pressure from many EU governments to back intervention and the havering of Chirac who only made up his mind at the last moment to say Non after endless equivocations.

Whitehall as the permanent guardian of state interests is concerned that to publish communications between the US president and the UK prime minister means that confidentiality flies out of the window. Why would any future American president trust the word of a British prime minister that their exchanges rest private if  a media campaign can overturn that?

Whitehall may be wrong but the idea that there is a magic X file of letters which will bring closure is infantile. History will deliver its verdict. But all 417 of us who voted for war are guilty not one man.


Denis MacShane was Minister of State at the Foreign Office in 2003.