Downing Street ordered a 'cover up' over Straw's bid to talk Blair out of Iraq invasion, explosive new evidence revealsBy Tim Shipman
Last updated at 1:55 AM on 21st January 2011
EnlargeDowning Street ordered a cover-up after Jack Straw made an 11th-hour attempt to stop Tony Blair going to war in Iraq, it was claimed last night.
Final opportunity: Blair allegedly insisted he wanted to go to war despite an 11th-hour attempt to stop him by his foreign secretary Jack Straw
Explosive anonymous evidence given to the Chilcot Inquiry said Mr Blair responded to his Foreign Secretary by insisting that he wanted to go to war.
Officials at Number 10 then allegedly ordered that no record was kept of the confrontation.
The revelation will pile pressure on the former Prime Minister when he returns to give evidence to the inquiry today.
Mr Blair will be concerned about the aggressive way Sir John Chilcot’s team have published damaging evidence against him in the week before his appearance, which is expected to attract anti-war protesters and security costs of more than £250,000.
Sir John gave anonymity to the witness – who may be a civil servant or a member of Mr Blair’s inner circle – so he could reveal details of the alleged controversial showdown with Mr Straw.
At the meeting on March 12, 2003, the source claimed Mr Straw made the point that ‘this was the final opportunity to decide on a different track – advising the prime minister that he still had a chance to avoid it if he wanted to’. The source said Mr Straw told Mr Blair: ‘If you want to avoid your own resignation, Prime Minister, you still have an opportunity and here it is.’
The witness said he was ‘absolutely struck’ by the speed of Mr Blair’s response as well as ‘the absolute insistence of it, and the fact that he had got his arguments all marshalled and all laid out’.
He added: ‘Number 10 officials decided, after careful consideration, that the meeting should not be recorded because it didn’t change anything’ and because it was a ‘very personal meeting’.
Mr Blair is likely to be questioned about the claims today.
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