And so it came to pass that nothing came to pass. Geoff Hoon gave evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry on the same day as a convention of anaesthetists visited the QE Conference Centre. Perhaps their presence contributed to the somnolent proceedings.
Beneath the apparent narcolepsy, Hoon made two important points. First, he was convinced that the intelligence contained in the two dossiers established the threat of WMD “beyond doubt”, which will assist Blair when he gives evidence, especially after Alastair Campbell’s recent ‘clarification’. However, Hoon claims that the 45-minute claim was the only piece of evidence that he had not seen prior to publication, adding that he was on ministerial business in Kiev at the time; though I doubt that will trouble Blair – other ministers did see it.
Second, Hoon, speaking with characteristic understatement, laid bare Brown’s consistent refusal to fund military action sufficiently. Hoon was careful not to name Brown, and he was clear that shortages in no way affected frontline units, but the intention was clear. There were body armour shortages and equipment maintenance problems in Iraq, and Sir Laurence Freeman pursued that line of questioning. Hoon answered that the brunt of cuts fell on other units and blamed the Treasury for reneging on the 2002 settlement for future planning, which lead to "some rather difficult decisions" about future equipment – decisions concerning helicopters, armoured vehicles and body armour that beset British troops in Helmand currently.
We have known all this for some time, but repetition never harms – unless of course you were the Chancellor who took those decisions. Brown called this ludicrous inquiry to relieve his domestic political worries; yet the hapless man is the only figure to have drawn any fire. What delicious irony.