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Give Chilcot a break, he's probably still working on Battle of Hastings inquiry

By Mark Steel

This Chilcot Inquiry may be taking decades to publish, but surely this means, when it comes out, it will look beautiful. Each line will be on a separate parchment, inscribed by Franciscan monks with crimson ink made from individually blessed elderberries, with sketches of bluebirds and gladioli around each vowel.

Each chapter will begin with a heading, such as "Weapons of Destruction be there none" written with melted rubies, and the story told in pictures like the Bayeux Tapestry, starting with a blown-up school in Baghdad embroidered with camel hair weaved into the skin of a panda. That must be why it's taken so long, so cut the bloke some slack.

There's a suggestion that the delay means Sir John Chilcot has "lost public confidence". The best way for him to get that back might be to announce that the reason it's not come out is that he hasn't started yet.

Instead, he's copied Happy Mondays - who once, reportedly, spent their entire record advance on drugs without playing a note - and has blown all the inquiry money on skunk.

If he's asked to explain the delay in Parliament, he can make a statement that starts, "Look, stop hassling me, right? You'll get your report, just lay off and I'm on it yeah. I mean, who knows who invaded who, right? Haaaaa aahaaa."

Someone should check his office, as it's probably covered in pizza boxes and empty bottles of Jack Daniels and Chilcot's been looking everywhere for the transcript of an interview he did with Alastair Campbell, unaware he used it for a roach.

That, at least, would be more acceptable than the reasons offered so far. For example, Chilcot says it's been held up for several months so that anyone who's criticised in the report can reply.

If that's true, it's a shame he wasn't in charge of criminal trials in the past, to give the same rights to anyone accused of misbehaving. Around now, he'd be telling us his report on the Kray twins would be published any day soon, but it was "only proper that those facing criticism for murder and other misdemeanours have every opportunity to reply adequately and in full measure".

Maybe he has been in charge of other inquiries in the past, but the incidents he was investigating happened so long ago that everyone's forgotten.

So, when he says the report should be out later this year, he means his report on the Battle of Hastings. But it would be unfair to bring it out earlier as it could have an influence on any Saxons standing in the election.

It's now taken him longer to publish his report on the start of the Iraq war than it took to fight the whole of the Second World War. He must read about the Allied campaign and think, "I wish my job was as simple as defeating Hitler. Fly some planes over Kent, trip to Normandy, bish-bosh and you're done in six years, but this inquiry I've been given is exhausting."

To be fair to Sir John, this does seem to be the purpose of inquiries. The entire Government could be caught on film trafficking children to North Korea in exchange for nuclear weapons they were selling to Islamic State and, instead of anyone being arrested, an inquiry would be set up that would take 35 years to report.

Then it would make recommendations such as, "It may be that an advisory body with powers to reconsider proposals that may conflict with that which acts contrary to those persons engaged in illicit trading, or otherwise be given refrigeration with regard to the A40 to Oxford."

So Chilcot could keep this going for a while yet.

In 2017, he'll inform us there's a delay owing to a dispute about which font it's to be published in, then it will have to be rewritten as he's gone off the letter D, then he'll decide it might be fairer to perform his findings as a piece of interpretive dance, but the choreographer is in Brussels working on a performance of the new EU fishing regulations so we'll have to wait a bit longer.

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