Bowing to growing political pressure, Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday agreed to give evidence to the Iraq inquiry before the general election, expected in May, to clarify his role in the Iraq invasion.
The move came as a surprise to the inquiry panel which had deliberately scheduled Mr. Brown’s appearance after the elections to avoid getting embroiled in party politics in the heat of an election campaign.
Sir John Chilcot, who is chairing the five-member inquiry, had said that he wanted it to remain “strictly non-partisan” and “firmly outside party politics.”
In recent weeks, Mr. Brown has faced mounting pressure to give evidence before the elections with Opposition arguing that voters had a right to know what role he played in the run-up-to the invasion.
The pressure increased particularly after the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s, communications chief at the time Alastair Campbell told the inquiry that Mr. Brown was part of Mr. Blair’s “inner circle” which made the controversial decision to go to war.
‘Nothing to hide’
Mr. Brown’s official spokesman said he had “nothing to hide” and was “keen to take up the opportunity to state the case about why Britain was right to take the action it did in respect to Iraq.”
In his letter to Sir John, Mr Brown said: “I want to make it absolutely clear I am prepared to give evidence whenever you see fit.”
Sir John said though the inquiry was still concerned that there was a risk of the hearings being politicised it had agreed that “as a matter of fairness” Mr. Brown should be allowed to depose before the elections.
A date is yet to be decided but it is likely to be late next month or early March.