ALEX SALMOND has suggested that the full scale revolt by Labour MPs against elected leader Jeremy Corbyn was deliberately engineered to prevent “Corbyn calling for Blair’s head from the despatch box” on Wednesday.
On July 6 the long-awaited inquiry into Britain’s role in the disastrous Iraq war will be published, with many Blair critics hoping the former prime minister will be savaged by the verdict, and cynics expecting yet another Westminster whitewash.
“I have been puzzling as to exactly why the Parliamentary Labour Party chose this moment to launch their coup against Jeremy Corbyn and just what explains the desperation to get him out last week. It can hardly be because of a European referendum where Corbyn’s campaigning, although less than energetic, was arguably more visible than that of say the likely big political winner Teresa May?” wrote Salmond, the former SNP leader, in The Herald.
“I had a conversation on exactly this point with veteran Labour firebrand Dennis Skinner. He answered in one word ‘Iraq’. The Skinner line is that the coup was timed to avoid Corbyn calling for Blair’s head next Wednesday from the despatch box. Indeed many would say that when Corbyn stated that he would be prepared to see a former Labour Prime Minister tried for war crimes then he sealed his fate as leader of the Labour party.”
Despite being largely outcast from contemporary British politics, being one of the few divisive politicians not to at least retain a hard core of support among some segment of the population, Blair continues to cast a long shadow of influence over the Labour Party.
He launched a strong campaign against Corbyn during last year’s leadership elections, and maintains a close circle of acolytes inspired by his call to put power before principle.
The Chilcot inquiry has long been hoped to provide the first official indictment of Blair for his role in orchestrating the Iraq war on premises that later transpired to be false.
In a separate interview Salmond stated the urgent need for there to be a “judicial or political reckoning” to restore (to some extent) the public’s faith in the parliamentary system.
The question as to whether Tony Blair is a war criminal is the subject of fierce debate largely revolving around what he knew before the war, and whether he intentionally lied, or was simply single-minded in his zealotry.
“He seemed puzzled as to why Jeremy Corbyn thinks he is a war criminal, why people don’t like him,” said Salmond. “The reason is 179 British war dead, 150,000 immediate dead from the Iraq conflict, the Middle East in flames, the world faced with an existential crisis on terrorism – these are just some of the reasons perhaps he should understand why people don’t hold him in the highest regard.”
Should Blair face severe criticism from the Chilcot inquiry then Salmond has stated his intent to revive an ancient law that could see the former prime minister ‘impeached’ and be prevented from holding office ever again.
If convicted under the law on constitutional duties, last used in 1806 when Lord Melville faced accusations of misappropriating public funds (how times have changed), then Blair could conceivably face prison but that prospect is considered extremely remote.
What would have more bearing on his legacy is whether the results of the Chilcot inquiry are used by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate British war crimes during the war.
However, because the court’s remit does not extend to “the decision by the UK to go to war in Iraq”, Blair himself would escape prosecution, while British soldiers may face serious investigation as the court can consider alleged crimes committed during the course of the war.
Authorities in the Hague are already drawing up a substantial dossier of alleged war crimes committed by British troops that include murder, torture and abuse, leading to calls for Britain to leave the ICC to prevent them facing justice, while politicians at home write indulgent memoirs about those dark days.