Witness number 69, Tony Blair, will today give evidence to the Iraq Inquiry. The Times speculate that Mr Blair is “expected today to confess that he made significant mistakes in both the build up to the Iraq war and its aftermath — while still insisting that the overall policy was right.” According to the Guardian: “[Blair] knows that even though he has been asked many of the questions likely to be posed today innumerable times, this represents his last chance to justify the war.” But there was controversy last night as the Government “resisted pressure” to declassify documents relating to his decision to take Britain to war. The Independent report that “No 10 said Gordon Brown was powerless to intervene to have them released.” The FT is more conciliatory and says that, “as long as he can argue that he believed in good faith that Saddam possessed WMD, it will be difficult for his critics to allege that he knowingly lied to the public ahead of the war.” Mr Blair arrived at 7.30am through a back entrance angering protesters outside. Left Foot Forward yesterday set out the actions of campaign group, 38 Degrees, who are demanding “tough questions” of Blair. The Independent have a list of the key questions.
The Guardian details that world leaders have agreed a timetable for Afghanistan’s own forces to take over security duties in the country’s more peaceful provinces later this year and conduct most operations in more dangerous areas within three years. The Obama administration has indicated that the US will start withdrawing American troops next July. But Afghan president Hamid Karzai said, “with regard to training and equipping the Afghan security forces, five to 10 years will be enough. With regard to sustaining them until Afghanistan is financially able to provide for our forces, the time will be extended to 10 to 15 years.” The Times has a sketch on the increasingly flirtatious relationship between David Miliband and Hillary Clinton.
David Cameron has again apologised for supporting section 28 and said that teaching about equality was an important way of combating homophobic bullying, according to The Guardian. The Conservative leader voted against the retention of section 28 as recently as 2003 in a move recently described by the Liberal Democrats as “shameful“.
The FT reports that almost 100,000 people were sent to prison in 2008. MPs on the parliamentary justice committee have accused Labour and the Conservatives of engaging in a “race” to lock up more people. Although crime has fallen by 36 per cent since 1998, prison capacity has risen 25,000. David Cameron plans to scrap Labour’s early prisoner release programme and is exploring the idea of reintroducing prison ships – an issue which puts him at odds with shadow justice secretary, Dominic Grieve, who “remains committed to a sharp medium-term reduction in prisoner numbers.”
The US Senate confirmed Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, to a second term by the narrowest margin in the history of the the position, reports the Washington Post. As the nation’s top economic policymaker, Bernanke’s 70-30 confirmation reinstates lingering anger at the Fed for bailing out institutions like AIG and could leave him lacking in vital political clout to gain support for measures to stimulate the American economy, such as raising interest rates.
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