Tuesday 19 January 2010


Today’s appearance of Geoff Hoon before the Chilcot Inquiry was always going to attract much interest after the release of his letters a week or so ago. From the report in The Times, it seemed that the star turn did not disappoint.

In his evidence Hoon admitted he worried Britain would struggle to take part in a full-scale land invasion and admitted delays in ordering equipment led to shortages of armoured vests, desert boots and clothing. Emergency Treasury funding was used to prepare soldiers in the months before the invasion because the Ministry of Defence had been told to reply on efficiency savings to buy new equipment, he told the inquiry. Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, only approved the additional money five months before the start of the war.

Mr Hoon reported a further delay in ordering equipment because Tony Blair refused to allow active war preparations as they might have harmed diplomatic efforts to secure the United Nation’s resolution used to justify the invasion. Hoon admitted he considered that the Army was stretched to deploy a division to Iraq when they were already committed in Afghanistan. He proposed more limited involvement by way of air and naval support for a US invasion but he was overruled.

Mr Hoon said had been unaware of a series of private notes sent by Blair to Bush in which, according to earlier evidence by Alastair Campbell, he assured him of Britain’s support if it came to war.

Because of the delay in preparing for the invasion some kit failed to reach the front line in time for the start of the war in March 2003. Mr Hoon said. “There were complaints about desert combats. Quite a lot of soldiers went into action in green combats and they didn’t like it. Some soldiers did not have the right boots.” A shortage of enhanced combat body armour had been the cause of deaths.

Mr Hoon revealed that he opposed Mr Blair’s decision in July 2004 to commit British forces to southern Afghanistan. The concerns were shared by the military chiefs who wanted to be clear that they weren’t going to be involved in two substantial operations simultaneously.

It also emerged that the Attorney General had warned Hoon during the run-up to the war that it would be difficult to justify military action. However, Mr Goldsmith eventually gave his legal backing just before the invasion.

Edward Davey, the Liberal’s Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, demanded that Mr Brown appear before the inquiry before instead of after the Election.
“Once again we can see Gordon Brown’s fingerprints all over this, but no sign of the man himself,” he said. “The Prime Minister should appear before the Iraq Inquiry before the election to give voters an informed choice. Instead we are being left with a huge Gordon Brown-shaped hole in the evidence.”

It seems to me that there was little point in us having a Secretary of State for Defence, and paying him a salary, when whatever he said was discarded and overruled. Some might say that a bigger man would have stood up to Blair and resigned if necessary. That said, the Military chiefs appear to have been utterly against a further involvement in Helmand, but when Blair walked all over them they too folded their tents.

Brown and Blair must be formidably frightening people if they can scare the life out of the Military chiefs and the Secretary of State for Defence en masse. Or is it just the threat of the withholding of honours that is frightening?


  1. Back in the da te Minister of Defence were very important members of the cabinet, portillo for instance...its only Blair wh treaed i like a revolving door, and Brown likewise followign his succession

  2. I think that, whilst a Cabinet Minister, has to accept that he has a boss, he should not allow himself to be walked over.

    Some Prime Ministers walk all over their ministers, and Thatcher was one of the worst for that... although she had a good example from Churchill, especially in 1950-55 government.

    Anyway, I can't see it doing him any good. Lord Hoon he ain't gonna be, methinks!

  3. Tris, that is not quite true about Churchill's second term in office, it was only in the realm of forign affairs that Churchill failed to consult his Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden. He thought of himself as an expert in that field and liked to conduct foreign affairs personally over the phone. Regrettably often when half cut he then forgot all about it and did not tell Anthony. It must have been intolerable but did we see Eden resigning? NO he clearly had his eye on the biggest prize of all and was obviously not much cop at forign affairs either as the 1958 Suez crisis proves.

  4. Munguin: Fair enough. Thank you.

  5. It is Powell's testimony to Chilcot that is most telling. He declared that everyone knew there was no chance of missiles delivering chemical warheads on Cyprus (See Chilcot, Hutton and the death of Dr David Kelly).

  6. Hi John. Welcome to Munguin's Republic. Thanks for the link.

    They are such a bunch of liars. I'll have a read of that later....

  7. John. Thanks again....Good article. Far too many anomalies for this to be as we were sold it.

    Personally I have always believed that he was killed...