Blair tried to block US inquiry into WMD
Nicholas Watt, political correspondent
Thursday May 27, 2004
Downing Street attempted to block the White House from holding a bipartisan inquiry into the failure to uncover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Tony Blair was in "denial" about the issue, a new book discloses today.
The book reveals that Downing Street was given short shrift when it launched an eleventh-hour bid to persuade the White House to think again. "You have your politics, we have ours," the US national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told Sir Nigel Sheinwald, Mr Blair's senior foreign affairs adviser, when he attempted to intervene.
The disclosure of private Anglo-American tensions is made by the journalist John Kampfner in an updated version of his book, Blair's Wars, serialised in today's Guardian.
Kampfner, political editor of the New Statesman, writes that Downing Street was largely kept in the dark about the inquiry, first hinted at by President Bush on January 30.
The author, who was told by British officials that the prime minister was in "denial" over the failure to uncover WMDs, writes: "Sheinwald contacted Condoleezza Rice to find out what was going on. She told him they were minded to hold an inquiry but had not finally decided. The British were miffed that the Americans had not bothered to tell them.
"Sheinwald put in a second call to Rice [on February 1], asking her to think again ... Rice replied tartly to his last-minute appeal, suggesting the British had been a little slow on the uptake: 'You have your politics, we have ours,' she told him. For all the supposed camaraderie, Bush had carried out a u-turn without giving Blair's concerns so much as a second thought."
The decision by Mr Bush created a "squalid weekend" for Mr Blair. Days later, on February 3, the former cabinet secretary, Lord Butler of Brockwell, was appointed to chair a cross-party inquiry, exacerbating tensions again.
Kampfner also reveals that Peter Mandelson cast the BBC's battle with the government over the death of Dr David Kelly in terms of the prime minister's ongoing rivalry with Gordon Brown.
Gavyn Davies, the former BBC chairman who is married to the senior Brown aide Sue Nye, stood by Andrew Gilligan's controversial Today programme report because he was "doing Brown's conspiracies to bring Tony Blair into disrepute", Kampfner quotes Mr Mandelson as saying. <