The Inquiry into the Iraq War is being widely reported and blogged. However, it is difficult for anyone not actually present to gain an accurate picture of the atmosphere in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. And – given that the Inquiry will almost certainly fail to ask the big questions – I have been forced to resort to satire instead.The depiction offered here is inspired by and loosely based on Tony Blair’s performance at the Inquiry on 29th January 2010. With the odd amendment and name change, it is taken in its entirety from Bruce Robinson’s The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman (1998). Better known for writing and directing Withnail and I (1986), Robinson’s novel describes the voyage of self-discovery of Thomas Penman, the eponymous teenage hero, albeit a voyage punctuated by his tendency to defecate at inappropriate times.
The scene opens midway through the morning’s proceedings…
Twenty minutes past eleven on the clock. John Chilcot, privy council member and former civil servant, slumped under it, bored beyond endurance. He was a stale little twot with too many pens: a mandarin with a safe pair of hands, although some questioned whether he had the backbone to take on former government ministers. He had lived an unfulfilling sort of life. Out of hope. Like a used match put back in the box…
Tony Blair started drawing spokes round the inkwell. His eyes drifted along the desk to a tiny gully filled with pencil leads and bits of India rubber. Winter sunlight cut across them and suddenly they were a fleet of guided missile destroyers – they were Royal Navy destroyers plunging in and out of an old and inky Persian Gulf. Within seconds his eyes slipped focus and his arse was on to it. He could hardly believe it, this was dangerous, he was already carrying a Shakespearian potato and the perils of another if Chilcot woke up were alarming.
He tried to force his eyes off but couldn’t, the destroyers were going a beauty. By now his pupils were so severely dilated any notion of control was fantasy. Suddenly, it half barged out, hot and uncompromising; nobody wanted it, least of all Tony, and he tore eyes away to check it, and the worst of all worlds was reality. He was staring straight into the eyes of Chilcot. Now something really unuseful happened, Tony grinned, grinned like he was sharing something with the cunt. But what else could he do, raised and weeping, staring into the eyes of this myopic prat with something so enormous in his pants it felt like a knee.
The moment was quite awful.
Chilcot looked away, beating a pen against his teeth, and the next time Tony looked at him he was on his feet scanning the Inquiry for a victim. The question of at what stage Britain had promised America they would support military action against Iraq was now going to have to be answered. It was Tony who was going to have to answer it, he knew it, and he was right.
Somehow Chilcot managed to lower his head into his pinstripes. He was looking amongst them and taking his time. Everything that was wrong with his life was here assembled, a Committee of jumped-up historians and quangocrats – Larry Freedman, Martin Gilbert, Roddy Lyne and Ushar Prashar, various other assorted thickheads and, of all things, the general public – this was Chilcot’s lot, and this was the end of the line. And there in the middle of them was that foul little oaf with its ears stuck out attempting to look inconspicuous.
Tony looked back at him, trying to look normal, blend in with the others, so to speak…
‘When was military support offered, then?’ said Chilcot. ‘When was it?’
A few hands went up, particularly that of Goldsmith, who was obsequious to authority and looked like he was trying to hang from the lamp.
The hands kept waving but Chilcot wasn’t interested; stood there under raised eyebrows with his cheeks blown out. He did this when he was waiting, leisurely releasing the air like his head had a slow puncture. And he was still waiting, hands thrust in his pockets like a pair of Colts aimed at a stenographer in the front row.
The double question mark was ominous.
‘On the eve of the war, sir.’
‘The eve of the war?’
‘The Eve?’ he said, his emphasis promoting it to a capital. ‘Not in 2002 then?’
Tony looked in his dossier like there might be something in it.
‘I meant, 2002, sir.’
‘2002? Did you say, 2002?’
The twat wasn’t looking cheerful, stared with magnified eyes and his pudgy little nose.
‘Are you trying to be funny?’
‘No, sir?’ he volleyed. ‘And the eve of the war isn’t true, is it sir?’
The silence belonged to Chilcot, he didn’t have a lot of use for it.
‘Do you even know what a UN Resolution is?’
‘A UN Resolution, sir?’
‘A UN Resolution, boy?’
Tony was facing crisis, fighting the incomer.
‘What have you been writing there?’ said Chilcot. He took a pace or two forward. ‘What have you got in your dossier?‘
(Some stickman soldiers shooting at each other, the date and a drawing of Cherie’s bum.)
‘Will you put your arm down, Goldsmith!’
The eyes were on him, Tony shook his head. He had nothing.
‘On your feet.’
It took a repetition of the instruction for him to rise. He went up like an old man with grit in the joints, noticeably at a tilt. Standing for interrogation added a new dimension, he could feel the weight of it pointing at the person behind him. At all costs he had to hang on, and he did so with lips drawn back exposing lightly clenched teeth.
‘Something amusing you?’
‘Then wipe that grin off your face.’
‘I’m not grinning, sir’
‘Don’t answer back.’
Tony decided there was only one way out of this, and it was through the door as soon as possible.
‘I don’t feel well, sir.’
‘I need to go downstairs, and report.’
‘How very convenient,’ said Chilcot, turning an eye to the Inquiry. ‘You sit here all morning saying nothing, and now suddenly you have stomach ache?’
‘Yes, sir, I need to go, sir.’
‘Shall I tell you something, Blair?’ he said, with transparent dismissal of the request. ‘You are an idle little chump, a loafer, and a liar. You get yourself into trouble and you think you can scuttle off to the nearest lavatory, well, that isn’t the way politics works, boy! And as you progress through it you will discover that there are responsibilities, parliamentary procedures, international laws, resolutions and… and… mortgages. Do you think I can pay my mortgage in a lavatory?’
If it was a joke it was unintended, but it got a dull laugh from one or two in the back and Chilcot suddenly became stage-struck...
Click here to read the rest of The Peculiar Memories of Tony Blair, in which Sir John Chilcot discovers Tony's pornographic doodles of Cherie, Tony is sent to be caned by the Queen and is subsequently discovered hiding in the Ladies' Lavatory by Polly Toynbee and Kate Adie...