Chilcot’s never-ending story

Sir John Chilcot may be remembered not for what he said in his report, but for how long he took to say it.


It's been a long wait for Chilcot's report

Once completed, the Chilcot report "should provide an unprecedented insight into one of the most disastrous decisions made by a British government in recent times", says Richard Norton-Taylor in The Guardian. But it looks like we could be waiting at least another eight months, meaning that the amount of time required to complete the report will now be "longer than British soldiers spent occupying Iraq".

The report, which has cost £10m and "saw its last witness in 2011", has been dogged by criticism and delays since its launch in 2009. Perhaps, joked broadcaster Jon Snow, Sir John Chilcot and "the inquiry team decided that redemption lies in producing the longest ever work in the English language".

According to Norton-Taylor, the delay is largely due to Chilcot's previous experiences with "Maxwellisation", a confidential process in which people who are to be criticised in the report are given advance copies so that they have a chance to formtheir rebuttals. Whether the full truth will be revealed is unlikely as "it is not only [Tony] Blair and former Labour ministers and political advisers who will be attacked, but senior Whitehall officials".

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By having the final say on the report before it goes public, Whitehall has secured "a powerful weapon". Chilcot reckons the report will be out by June/July, but he could be required by law to publish no later than 18 April, says Christopher Hope in The Daily Telegraph bereaved families are considering a legal challenge to bring forward the date.

The problem now, says the FT, is that "unless he reports soon, Sir John's effort will come to be remembered not for what he says but for how long he took to say it". Yet "the real Iraq scandal is the hypocrisy of those condemning Blair after backing his war", says James Kirkup in The Daily Telegraph. In 2005, UK voters had the chance to pass judgement, but 9.5 million re-elected him "fully aware of what had happened".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri