Chilcot Inquiry delay: Public have right to know before election, say Manchester MPs

Delaying the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war until after the general election is ‘simply unacceptable’ – and Manchester MPs and activists have claimed the public have a right to know before they vote.

The Chilcot Inquiry, an official inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq, began proceedings in 2009 and heard from the last witness in 2011 – yet the findings will not be published until after the general election in May.

The war and its aftermath saw British troops remain in Iraq until 2009. Former Civil Servant Sir John Chilcot was called on to investigate Britain’s role in the US-led invasion.

Graham Stringer, Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton, said he was ‘extremely disappointed’ at the decision to delay the inquiry.

He told MM: “It will mean that there will now be three general elections between the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 and the full inquiry into that decision being made public, which is simply unacceptable in a democratic society.

“It is for everybody that this report needs to be released. It is absolutely for the families to know what happened, and it is for those of us who thought that the Iraq war was a terrible idea in the first place and voted against it to see if we were right.

“I don’t think it would necessarily affect the outcome of a general election, but the report should be there for people to discuss in case it does. Labour and Conservative MPs voted both for and against it, so it was a very complicated political issue. And at the moment, as far as I can tell, 100% of members of parliament want it published now.

“I think Mr Chilcot has a responsibility to explain to the country why he taken so long to with this report.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the public would assume the delay was due to those criticised in the inquiry attempting to ‘sex it down’ before release.

A spokesperson for John Leech, Liberal Democrat MP for Withington, said that he was similarly unhappy at the decision.

“We don’t know who is delaying it and we don’t know why,” Mr Leech’s representative said.

“It just does not make any sense at all to not have people knowing.

“It should have been published years ago rather than now. Don’t forget it was set up by Gordon Brown, just before the last election. So they have had a whole five years to release it.

“Yesterday there was a report by the BBC saying that we were the most transparent country in the world and the day after that they shelve the Chilcot report. It doesn’t make sense. Voters have a right to know what happens in their name.”

Mark Krantz, an activist and protester for the Manchester Stop the War Coalition, who marched against the Iraq War, said that the news did not come as a shock.

He said: “Unfortunately, I am not surprised. We were lied to systematically and the people who did the lying and justified their war know it.

“This is just a further attempt to delay a political reckoning with the war-mongers, especially Blair and his supporters. It is kicking it into the long grass until after the general election so I am not surprised, but disappointed and angry.”

Mr Krantz also believes the report is being withheld for political reasons.

“They [politicians at the time] acted collectively to bring to the British people a whole series of lies and distortions of the truth in order to justify the war,” he told MM.

“Now they are doing the same thing in order to prevent an inquiry that they were forced to set up in the first place by public pressure. They want to make sure that the report is not available before the general election, because that would provide a political discussion that they would rather not have. Especially as now they have claimed that we are in a never-ending war with the middle-east.

“I think the question around the timing of when it comes out is a political calculation by those that make the decisions. And I know David Cameron has said it has nothing to do with him. Well, he is the Prime Minister, so that is just ridiculous.

“Everyone who marched against the war and all of us in the Stop the War Coalition have been demanding that it is published as soon as possible. I think if it had been published before the election, then questions of war and British foreign policy in Iraq and Syria could become an issue of even greater prominence. And I don’t think they want that to happen.”

Although there has never been an official deadline for the Chilcot Inquiry, disputes over what documents can be included have led to numerous delays. 

Image courtesy of BBC via YouTube, with thanks.

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