‘No-one had the skills to do the work’: Northampton ex-minister welcomes damning Chilcot report on Iraq war

Labour's Sally Keeble has welcomed John Chilcot's findings in the Iraq inquiry, saying her department was not equipped to deal with the conflict aftermath.
Labour's Sally Keeble has welcomed John Chilcot's findings in the Iraq inquiry, saying her department was not equipped to deal with the conflict aftermath.
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A former Northampton MP who resigned her ministerial post in the wake of the Iraq war has welcomed Sir John Chilcot’s findings about its mishandled aftermath.

The long-awaited report released yesterday found that, despite warnings, the consequences of the invasion in 2003 were underestimated by the Government at the time, which was led by Tony Blair.

The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein, it said, were “wholly inadequate.”

Sally Keeble, who held the Northampton North seat with Labour until 2010, stepped down from her position as an international development junior minister in June 2003.

She was later called to give evidence to the inquiry and yesterday welcomed its findings.

She said: “I hope this means people will be satisfied, particularly people who were involved in the conflict.

“Most of the media coverage up to now has focussed on the decisions taken before we went into war - but I was glad to see Chilcott was critical of the aftermath planning.”

Her resignation letter from the Department for International Development, declassified in 2010, criticised the performance of her then boss Clare Short.

The department delivers aid to countries in need, but Mrs Keeble said the Chilcot report now backs up her assertions that it was woefully under-equipped to deal with the Iraq clear-up.

She said: “It was an overall failure by the department, it wasn’t just about individual decisions.

“It was the fact this department was set up to deliver, to put structures in place in Africa, then it ended up delivering post-conflict reconstruction in an oil- rich country in the Middle East.

“No-one had the skills to do the work and there wasn’t the money.

“I don’t think the Americans had a plan either.

“The framework just wasn’t there.”

Mrs Keeble had, however, voted in favour of the war in March 2003.

Despite Chilcot finding there was “no imminent threat” from Saddam Hussein at the time of the vote, Mrs Keeble does not believe Parliament was misled into going to war.

She said: “I think everyone knew at the time that there would be issues about the decision; that it would be an unpopular war.

“There was a lot of information around at the time. I don’t think there was any intention to mislead.

“Whether people were individually misled, I don’t know.

“But everyone has to make up their own mind when it comes to military action. We had to make a judgement on balance, it wasn’t a decision where we could have absolute certainty.”