Iraq Inquiry to be public?

Following anger expressed by both opposition parties and campaigners - and just before a possible defeat at the hands of back-benchers next week, something the Cabinet could do without so soon after their recent embarrassments - Prime Minister Gordon Brown has changed his mind over the forthcoming inquiry into the Iraq War and it looks set to be published openly.

Mr. Brown's smile has not been a common sight in recent weeks. Image adapted from one at Wikipedia, used in accordance with Creative Commons ShareAlike2.0 license.

Although Defence Minister David Miliband has stated that all but the most sensitive details would be made available, Tory leader David Cameron accused Labour of "an establishment stitch-up." LibDem MPs said they were planning to boycott the inquiry altogether. Mr. Brown faced further attacks from his own party, with Ed Balls saying that he would "prefer it to be as open as possible" and Gordon Prentice (Pendle) saying he was "not prepared to accept a secret inquiry into Iraq." Families of servicemen killed in the conflict have also condemned the decision; Rose Gentle, the mother of Gordon Gentle who was killed by a roadside bomb in 2004 after just six months' military training, says "we have fought and fought for this but it will be no use and it could all be for nothing behind closed doors" and adding that she and others would continue in their efforts to have the inquiry made public.

The inquiry is scheduled to begin next month and is expected to take more than a year to reach a conclusion about the war and the controversial decisions that led to Britain joining it, which LibDem leader Nick Clegg has called "probably the biggest foreign policy mistake that any government has made since Suez."

Mr. Brown has faced increasing demands for greater transparency recently following the MPs' expenses scandal, which led to the investigation into claims made by Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik - which was originally going to be kept secret - becoming a thorn in the PM's side as he was forced to publicise it in order for the electorate to be certain nothing was being kept quiet and nothing untoward was taking place. A No.10 spokesperson has claimed that it was never an "issue of theology" as to whether or not the inquiry would be made publically available - however, earlier statements that he needed to take into account national security and the worldwide reputation of British military are thought by many to be coded excuses for excess secrecy since nobody expects anything other than a version in which confidential data of this type will have been edited out. We'll all just have to make our minds up over whether or not this secrecy was indeed excessive and why it may have been thought necessary, since all we can be certain of is that if there is some information revealing that the war should not have taken place it'll have been removed before we get a chance to see it.

Lord Mandelson - who for all his many faults is perhaps the finest political tactician Parliament has seen in many years (which is why he's still around despite his career having seemingly come to an end on many occasions) - recently made a few suggestions that he felt Mr. Brown needed to take on board if he is to survive as Labour leader. One of these was that the PM needed to start "listening to people," in order to rid himself of his reputation for riding rough-shod over other people's opinions. Could it be that his party's disastrous election results the week before last were enough to make Gordon see sense in Mandelson's advice and decide he'll pay a bit of attention to popular opinion in the future? Stranger things have happened.

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