The guardian of good governance is supposed to be the cabinet secretary, but Sir Jeremy Heywood has become the roadblock to progress
18 December 2013 - With the publication of Sir Peter Gibson's report on Thursday, we shall begin to see whether the British establishment has the capacity to hold itself to account for its brutal embroilments during the "war on terror". Since the detainees themselves walked away from the inquiry into their torture, the omens haven't been good, and there are reports that the inquiry has felt unable to reach firm conclusions. But at least, after many delays, we will now have a report of sorts, and be able to judge whether Sir Peter was able to rescue something worthwhile.
The same cannot be said for the probe into the bloodiest catastrophe of the lot: the invasion of Iraq. Forty-two months after being charged with laying the demons to rest, Sir John Chilcot's inquiry has no end date. Britain does not need an official inquiry to tell it what to think. Leaked papers have already revealed that London knew that "facts were being fixed" by Washington, and tasked a press officer with the first draft of an "intelligence" dossier that warped perceptions. We know, too, that No 10 fed journalists with old information about weapons Saddam Hussein was known to have destroyed, a campaign of misinformation to support a misadventure that led to military humiliation in Basra.
But an inquiry could mark the moment when the British state officially accepts how wrong things went, and could educate future administrations in doing things differently. The guardian of good governance is supposed to be the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood. But, as Sir John's testy correspondence with No 10 implies, Sir Jeremy has become the roadblock to progress. He is barring publication of the records of cabinet-level and White House discussions on which Sir John insists he needs to rest his conclusion. read more>>>