The view that Prime Minister Gordon Brown only reluctantly supported the Iraq invasion took some hammering on Monday when, appearing before the Iraq inquiry committee, he defended it describing it as "the right decision made for the right reasons''.
A small group of anti-war protesters, including family members of soldiers killed in Iraq, raised slogans as Mr. Brown arrived. Inside, the number of people who turned up to hear his evidence was much smaller than when Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, faced the inquiry in January.
In a surprisingly strong defence of his predecessor with whom he had had a tense relationship, Mr. Brown said contrary to speculation he was kept “fully'' in the loop by Mr. Blair and was never refused any information. He also contradicted those of his colleagues who have complained that the key decisions in the run-up to the invasion were taken by Mr. Blair's inner circle and the Cabinet was kept in the dark.
Mr. Brown, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, claimed that the Cabinet was “fully briefed'' on every decision. He said he never felt he was denied information. Besides meeting Mr. Blair “regularly'', he was briefed by intelligence services on a number of occasions which led him to believe that Iraq was a “threat'' that had to be “dealt with''.
“Everything Mr. Blair did he did properly and I was kept fully informed about the information that I needed to make my decisions,” he told the five-member panel chaired by Sir John Chilcot, a former senior servant.
The only occasion when he pleaded ignorance of some of the behind-the-scenes moves was when he was asked whether he was aware that Mr. Blair had already committed Britain's support to any U.S.-led intervention during a meeting with the then U.S. President George W. Bush at the latter's ranch in Texas in 2002.
“I didn't know the exact conversation and you wouldn't expect me to,” he said.
He also said he did not see Mr. Blair's private letters to Mr. Bush on the issue.
Justifying the invasion, he said that “rogue states” could not be allowed to flout international law as Iraq, he insisted, had done. He claimed that until the “last minute'' the effort was to find a diplomatic solution.
“Right up to the last minute, right up to the last weekend, I think many of us were hopeful that the diplomatic route would succeed,” he said.
Mr. Brown rejected accusations that he did not provide enough funds for the war and claimed he gave Ministry of Defence all the money it needed.