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Blair has lost the Iraq war debate

Tony Blair's performance was predictable when he appeared yesterday before the Chilcot Inquiry into the war in Iraq. He demonstrated yet again his eloquence and his ability to deal with awkward questions, but in a real sense he had already lost the argument.

Whatever Mr Blair believed, or said he believed, about his motivation for bringing Britain into a bruising and costly involvement in Iraq, members of the public had already made up their own minds.

Those who disagree fundamentally with him will not have been swayed by his Chilcot appearance and the same applies to those who believe that his judgment on Iraq was basically right.

The Iraq war has been one of the most divisive issues in recent British history, possibly stretching back as far as the ill-fated Suez intervention. The debate on Iraq will continue to be bitter and invariably complex, but its divisiveness will remain within the body politic and the nation at large.

The whole sorry episode involving Iraq and the way in which the nation was dragged into the conflict by an over-zealous Prime Minister demonstrated that the Presidential style of leadership - at which Blair was adept - is not part of the traditional British way of doing things.

The essence of our democracy is the collective decision-making and responsibility of the Cabinet, and it is by no means clear that all of Tony Blair's colleagues were certain as to why the country was going to war.

Whatever the Chilcot Inquiry concludes in due course, the essential truth of the current and earlier deliberations is that the fiasco of the Iraq war and the flawed arguments for getting involved in it must not be allowed to happen again.

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Despite what Mr Blair has told the Chilcot Inquiry, he has lost the debate with the nation. He will not be judged kindly by history either.

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