The Chilcot Inquiry continues to provide some fascinating insights into how the Blair government operated, although those insights have come less from some of the principals (both Blair and Alastair Campbell were eminently controlled and unrevelatory throughout their long hearings) and more from less well known players. Like Lord Walker the other day, confirming that Gordon Brown's (as Chancellor) determination to cut army spending nearly provoked mass resignations. His successor as chief of staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, suggested that defence chiefs simply didn't have the time to source everything they wanted, although last week Tony Blair claimed he had been told the military were war-ready. Claim and counter-claim will provide the members of the Inquiry with a real challenge when it comes to writing their final report.
Meanwhile, Clare Short bounded back into the political limelight yesterday with her evidence. She was hardly going to play a meek role discussing a war she herself had such split feelings over, and she let fly quite a few blunt remarks about her former political colleagues. It's not so much her characterisation of Blair and Campbell as a couple of con-men - an expected tribute - but her picture of the whole cabinet jeering her when she tried to question the war's legality. Finally, we have it. This was not a cabinet of cautious, independent thinkers, as Straw and Hoon have tried so hard to suggest. They were a bunch of unthinking mediocrities who fell quickly in behind their leader's obvious desire for war. Whatever else it shows us, Chilcot has exposed the absence of proper cabinet government under Blair, and not just because of prime ministerial fiat, but because the cabinet itself abandoned such a pretense. Well done, Clare.