The Tories have missed a trick in responding to the predictable news that Gordon Brown won’t be giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry until after the election. William Hague has just said that it stinks. He should have followed up by listing the questions Brown should be asked – highlighting the extent of his personal culpability in our defeat in Basra and treatment of the troops:
1) Did you ever ask yourself why Britain came to be fighting two wars on a peacetime budget?
2) During the 2007 Tory Patrty conference you went to Iraq and said that 500 troops would be home by Christmas. This decision stunned the Ministry of Defence, and turned out to have been – how can we put this, Prime Minister – untrue. Can you explain why you made this claim, and why you decided not to clear it with the MoD?
3) In Jan08 you also told the House of Commons that violence in Basra has “gone down by 90 per cent over the past few months”. Can you give a source for this figure? Or was it in fact concocted, to conceal from parliament and the public the scale of the butchery that you were knowingly leaving behind? Given activity of the death squads then – so bad that the Iraqi army had to reinvade the city a year later – how could this have been true?
4) Can you explain the process by which troops make requests for extra resources? Is it the case that the military is instructed never to make a formal request that they know will be turned down, so the Prime Minister can mislead the public by saying he has accepted every resource request being made?
5) Andrew Rawnsley said in his Servants of the People that you told Tony Blair that he could only have more money for public services “if he didn’t spend so much on defence”. Is this a fair reflection of your views at that point? And, indeed, subsequently?
6) When you asked Des Browne to be both Scotland Secretary and Defence Secretary, did he object? Did he raise any remarks about how appropriate it was to make this a part-time position given the two wars were were fighting?
7) Did you raid the military accommodation refurbishment budget when the war started, rather then fund the war with fresh money required? Do you think it right to leave the families of servicemen to the type of squalor?
8) Until he resigned, Tony Blair would have weekly videoconference dicussions with George W Bush due to the seriousness of our joint involvement in Iraq. How many such discussions did you have?
9) Can you give a breakdown of the spending per soldier, for American and British troops deployed in theatre? If the British figure is far lower, can you say the extent to which this is due to poorer body armour, more vulnerable Land Rovers etc?
10) What does the appointment of a low-ranking figure like Bob Ainsworth as Defence Secretary say about your opinion of the military?