David Blunkett has given an interview with the Guardian. Much of it concerns his depression after the end of his relationship with Kimberly Quinn (and the end of his career) but there were a couple of other bits which I found more interesting. First the easy bit:
“The main task for all of us is to make sure that in years to come Iraq is not seen as [Blair’s] legacy,” Mr Blunkett says. Instead, he asserts, the legacy will be “the complete transformation of Britain’s economic, social and political culture”.
More interesting is Blunkett’s admission that the UK had no real influence on the USA over Iraq (imagine my surprise) and that he failed to question the intelligence over Iraq in the run-up to the war.
A member of the war cabinet, he reveals that Britain battled with the US vice-president, Dick Cheney, and defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, not to press ahead with dismantling “the whole of the security, policing, administrative and local government system on the basis of the de-Ba’athification of Iraq.
“The issue was: ‘What the hell do you do about it?’ All we could do as a nation of 60 million off the coast of mainland Europe was to seek to influence the most powerful nation in the world. We did seek to influence them, but we were not in charge, so you cannot say that if only the government recognised what needed to be done, it would all have been different. The government did recognise the problem.”
He admits: “We dismantled the structure of a functioning state,” adding that the British view was: “Change them by all means, decapitate them even, but very quickly get the arms and legs moving.”
Recalling his role in the war cabinet, he says: “I did two things, one that was good, and one that was not so clever. I asked rigorous questions to the point when Peter Mandelson said ‘Are you onside with Tony?’ and secondly I did not take enough notice because I was home secretary, and I did not argue enough about what we were doing presentationally about the dossiers. I just did not. There is no point pretending I did and I was right. I just did not.”
He says he is not criticising the then head of the joint intelligence committee, Sir John Scarlett. “People took things in good faith, the pressures on people were enormous. If for the first time ever you are going to have a vote in parliament about going to war, and you are trying to win the country over, and you are trying to send signals that might in the end avoid war, you get into that kind of momentum which is very difficult to get out of.”
Mr Blunkett likens Mr Blair’s close relationship with George Bush to that of members of a joint cabinet, with collective cabinet responsibility.
He insists Mr Blair stood up to the president in private. He argues: “You influence someone not by abusing them, but by persuading them. I do not think that in politics there is a betrayal in privately telling the US the truth, and being supportive as it is possible to be, given the difficulties that causes you politically at home.”
So it looks like Blunkett’s influence over Blair is comparable to Blair’s influence over Bush. What comes across to me loud and clear is just how necessary his resignation was. It’s just a shame that his successors were even worse
You can read the interview here.