Campbell diaries: Blair ignored Iraq 'doubts'

Tony Blair ignored the "severe doubts" of his closest aides in the run up to the war in Iraq, his former spin doctor has revealed.

Alistair Campbell's diaries, published today in abridged form, reveal the former prime minister's fellow Cabinet members had "severe moments of doubt" over the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but Mr Blair insisted they were following the right course.

Ahead of the final Commons vote on the war, John Reid and John Prescott both looked "physically sick".

Mr Reid warned Mr Blair "we will be judged by the Iraq that replaces Saddam's Iraq, and by the Middle East".

Clare Short, who later resigned from the government over the reconstruction of Iraq, told the Cabinet she was going to have her "little agonising overnight," Mr Campbell recalls.

The government went on to win the Commons vote, despite a rebellion by 139 Labour MPs. Mr Campbell said his old boss' performance was "superb".

Mr Campbell wrote: "All of us, I think, had had pretty severe moments of doubt but he hadn't really, or if he had he had hidden them even from us."

The former spin doctor also reveals George Bush thanked the UK for its support in the run up to Iraq. President Bush told Mr Campbell "you can tell the story of how Tony flew in and pulled the crazed unilateralist back from the brink."

Mr Campbell gives Tony Blair credit for the "people's princess" line in the wake of Princess Diana's death.

He also reveals Mr Blair actively considered giving Paddy Ashdown a Cabinet job ahead of the 1997 election, as well as the possibility of a Liberal Democrat - Labour pact.

The Blair Years as published today totals more than 350,000 words, edited down from Mr Campbell's original diaries which ran to 2.5 million words.

Mr Campbell defended the decision to publish his diaries just two weeks after Tony Blair left Downing Street.

He said he had edited out many of the references to Gordon Brown, saying he did not want to give David Cameron a "goldmine" to use against the new prime minister.

The new prime minister's spokesman said Mr Brown was yet to read Mr Campbell's diaries.


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