So, what do we make of round one? Blair looks younger, in a strange way. A shorter haircut. But all those thespian mannerisms that I had forgotten about are still there – and are being used to full effect. A complete mastery of his facial expressions – which, for Blair, do the communicating. He can torn on anxiety, bemusement etc on tap.The quizzical look, the mock concern. The pause, as he thinks about something (or pretends to). It wouldn’t surprise me if he was faking the slight shaking of the hands which Joey Jones at Sky has just picked up.
We have seen the usual Blair lawyerly hair-splitting habit: “regime change” is not the same as wanting to “remove” Saddam – etc. Blair will, today, throw up something for a headline. He will want to feed the beast. It wouldn’t surprise me if he mentions something about God. As I said yesterday, his real crime is Basra. The generals said that the militia overrun the city: why did he not report this development to parliament? When did it become clear to him that the UK’s attempts to build up the police and the army had been a disaster because they had simply badged up the death squads? Why did he think he had to negotiate with these militias, and involve them in power, if they had no grassroots legitimiacy and were terrorising the locals? Why not just kill their leaders and run then out of town as the Iraqi army later had to do? Why keep parliament in the dark about the true state of Basra? Does he feel he let the people of Basra down? These are the questions that I reckon he will not be asked in the rest of today’s inquiry.
UPDATE: Iain Martin live blogging here.