David Hughes – The Daily Telegraph April 29, 2005
Tony Blair's credibility was blown apart yesterday by the bombshell leak of the Attorney-General's top-secret legal advice on invading Iraq.
It revealed that the Prime Minister persistently lied to Parliament and the public about the legal basis for the war.
For two years Mr Blair has refused to publish the advice, citing confidentiality, while insisting the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, was "unequivocal" that the war was lawful.
Last night's sensational leak to a TV news station reveals the true reason for its suppression – it was full of warnings that the invasion could be illegal.
It means the PM has not told the truth on the pivotal question: Was the war legal?
The revelation came minutes after Mr Blair declared on TV: "I have never told a lie."
Lord Goldsmith's advice, handed to the PM personally on March 7, 2003 and never shown to the Cabinet, was so guarded and equivocal it would have made an invasion impossible to justify to Parliament.
Yet just 10 days later, under pressure from Downing Street, the Attorney-General published new advice stripped of all the caveats. It was on this "doctored" advice that Mr Blair sent British troops to war.
In a statement last night, Lord Goldsmith confirmed that the leaked document was genuine.
But he insisted it "stands up the case the Government has been making all along". In his judgment, the war was lawful, and that was what he had said to Government, the Cabinet and in public at the time.
With polling day only a week away, the disclosure threatens to derail Labour's entire election strategy.
Leading constitutional expert Professor Peter Hennessy said: "The whole thing reeks. There is only one word for it . . . it reeks.
"Even if the Prime Minister wins handsomely on polling day this will stain him and his premiership as long as people remember it, just as Anthony Eden's name is forever associated with Suez."
Shadow attorney-general Dominic Grieve said Mr Blair had been guilty of a "gross deception" on Parliament and the public.
Last updated 01/05/2005