THE BLOG
29/05/2012 12:52 BST | Updated 29/07/2012 06:12 BST

Tony Blair: The Jury's Still Out

"He looks haunted," said one of my colleagues, as Tony Blair gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry. While various commentators have said the former prime minister appeared more relaxed than he'd done during Hutton and Chilcott, there was still something slightly askew about him. Something not quite right.

"He looks haunted," said one of my colleagues, as Tony Blair gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

While various commentators have said the former prime minister appeared more relaxed than he'd done during Hutton and Chilcott, there was still something slightly askew about him. Something not quite right.

This was Blair a long way from the man who used to stand in 'his' Downing Street, cup of tea in hand, talking to the press as if chatting to a bunch of mates.

His achievements are strong: Polly Toynbee and Simon Kelner refer to the minimum wage, civil partnerships, investment in public services, and more young people in higher education, amongst other things.

And yet, overshadowing it all, is Iraq.

As the Guardian says, quoting CP Scott: 'Comment is free, but facts are sacred.'

One of the most interesting points Mr Blair made to Leveson was that some papers' news items have become infused with comment. It's not always easy to spot the divide between a report and an opinion piece.

Which brings to mind the Iraq Dossier of September 2002.

According to Andrew Rawnsley's account in The End of the Party, the document was stripped of various caveats about WMD until it was given to MPs complete with the now notorious 45-minute claim.

A senior intelligence officer, Major General Michael Laurie, told the Chilcott Inquiry: "We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care."

In that dossier, Mr Blair arguably did exactly what he's been accusing the newspapers of doing: he didn't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and no pre-link to al Qaeda.

An appallingly bad reconstruction plan led to a lengthy aftermath.

Iraq Body Count puts the number of civilian deaths at 106,769.

Mr Blair may well have been utterly sincere in his desire to rid the world of a brutal dictator, and to make sure that same dictator never made friends with Islamist terrorists.

But, to put it at its simplest, two wrongs don't make a right.

Yes, go after a blood-thirsty psychopathic leader if you want to - legally - but please don't dress it up in spin - in what turn out to be bogus claims about that man's alleged military capabilities.

Now, meanwhile, we learn that Mr Blair is advising the dictator of Kazakhstan.

The former Prime Minister famously said after Bernie Ecclestone's one million pound donation to Labour in 1997 that he was a "pretty straight sort of guy".

To use a legal metaphor about the former barrister, the jury, on that, is still out.