Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Butler Report

I've been working all day, so haven't had time to digest the Butler Report yet. I did, though, manage to catch some of his introduction, and some of the responses on PMQ's.

My initial reaction was disappointment - this wasn't going to be a historical moment, and was beginning to sound like a fudge. But after a little thought, I think this could be one of those slow-burners. Butler was very careful not to portion out individual responsibility in his report. Where he did, as in the case of John Scarlett, he was at pains to point out that, well, heads shouldn't roll, so to speak.

But the fact remains that Butler did look at the evidence and find fault. He's a canny operator, and knows enough to realise that he doesn't have to name and shame - politicians, for all their faults, are smart enough to be able to do that. I'd also hazard a guess that, as a former cabinet secretary he'd be pretty uncomfortable doing this.

But his findings are interesting. Lets talk about the 45 minute claim as it is perhaps the most notorious. Butler found that this was based on shaky evidence, and was exaggerrated beyond its true importance. OK, so nothing new. He also asserted that it was exaggerated in good faith. Well sure, I don't think many people actually believed Blair was lying about that. But that is hardly the point. The war was sold on inaccurate information, and the government accepts this. So someone is at fault, and I don't think it will be long before critics of the government start laying blame.

So despite the fact that noone is really blamed in the document, it could prove to be a pretty big stick to beat the government with. I'm not 100% on all the content yet, but I'm pretty sure that some of his findings will have caused a few palpitations. Wait and see what happens...
My thoughts are that its not as naive, at least, as the Hutton report, actually seems to have some idea how governments work. And if you were expecting a simple "Blair did it in the drawing room with the lead pipe" then you were going to be disappointed, but hey, that's not what it was about, right?
At least... I *think* those are my thoughts.
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