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John McDonnell fails to rule out calls for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes

Published 03/07/2016

John McDonnell is ruling nothing out ahead of the publication of the Chilcot report
John McDonnell is ruling nothing out ahead of the publication of the Chilcot report

Labour's John McDonnell has refused to rule out calling for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes over Iraq.

The shadow chancellor did not disagree with the suggestion that he and Jeremy Corbyn are going to "crucify" the former leader for "being a war criminal" when the Chilcot report comes out on Wednesday.

A number of MPs are expected to try to use an ancient law to try to impeach the former prime minister once the findings of the long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq war are published.

"I have never said that - what I have said all the way through in the last few weeks is we've got to wait for Chilcot," he told Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News.

"What I have been saying - actually it's more important that we look at the processes that led up to the Iraq war, rather than any individual role or responsibility, because I want to make sure that we put the processes in place so that we never ever make such a grave mistake again, because I think it was."

When asked if he thinks Mr Blair may have questions to answer in the international court, he said: "I want to see the Chilcot report, nobody can comment on this until we see the report itself and I'm hoping that the report will be thorough and for me the importance is not Tony Blair or any individuals - it's about the processes so we never ever get into this tragic, tragic mess again with such loss of life."

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said there "has to be a judicial or political reckoning" for Blair's role in the Iraq conflict.

"He seemed puzzled as to why Jeremy Corbyn thinks he is a war criminal, why people don't like him," he told Sky News.

"The reason is 179 British war dead, 150,000 immediate dead from the Iraq conflict, the Middle East in flames, the world faced with an existential crisis on terrorism - these are just some of the reasons perhaps he should understand why people don't hold him in the highest regard."

He added: "We are waiting to see Chilcot producing the evidence, which we believe is there, which will allow action to be taken."

"One way or another there are many MPs, and this is not a party political thing, this is across the political parties, who are absolutely determined that account has to be held to," he continued.

"(They believe) that you cannot have a situation where this country blunders into an illegal war with the appalling consequences and at the end of the day there isn't a reckoning. There has to be a judicial or political reckoning for that."

Mr Blair refused to comment on Chilcot before it is made public.

"Wednesday is the time the report is published. I have said many times over these past years I will wait for the report and then I will make my views known and express myself fully and properly," he told Sky News.

"I have taken the view, I think rightly or wrongly, we should wait for the report to be published and then I will express myself and I'm not getting into either the politics or the detail of it until I've actually seen it."

When asked why some Labour members hate him "so fundamentally" he replied "I don't know" and added: "There may be lots of reasons for it but politics is a strange business."

Mr Blair continued: "Politics it goes in waves of sentiment and feeling. I think one of the most important things in politics is to do what you think is right.

"In the end you might be right or wrong but ultimately I think leadership is about assessing the situation as you see it and doing what you think is right, even if it's not always very popular."

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