Sir Jeremy Heywood-The Iraq Inquiry & Other Controversies- Are His hands clean?

January 14 2014: How Chilcot could ‘slap the cuffs’ on Tony Blair

Lord Mandelson recently described Chilcot as, “what could be a very difficult minefield” for the Labour Party. Blair allies have been briefing friendly journalists that he is, “deeply concerned” about the report, though this may be expectation management to make the actual criticism look better by comparison. Nobody close to the inquiry will talk directly about its findings – which are, in any case, subject to change as part of the, “Maxwellisation” process, where witnesses are privately sent previews of any criticisms made about them and invited to comment. But sources pointed towards certain passages of evidence, often under-reported at the time they were given, as carrying particular weight with at least some of the five-strong inquiry panel.

On January 13, 2010, the day after one star witness, Mr Blair’s spin man, Alastair Campbell, appeared before Chilcot, the inquiry heard from the Cabinet Secretary at the time of the invasion, Andrew Turnbull. Lord Turnbull gave evidence again, as did his predecessor, Lord Wilson, on January 25 2011, a few days after Mr Blair had made his second appearance.

Both times, the TV circus for Mr Campbell and Mr Blair had folded its tents and the ex-mandarins’ sessions were barely covered in the Press. But they were devastating. Lord Turnbull said that he and the Cabinet had essentially been deceived, “brought into the story … a long way behind” what had already been agreed by what he described as Mr Blair’s “entourage”. The Cabinet never saw any papers at all, he said.

Lord Wilson, who left six months before the war, testified that at his final meeting with the Prime Minister he had told Mr Blair that he had a worrying “gleam in his eye” over military action. Lord Turnbull added that had Lord Wilson known the full picture – that a note had already been sent to President George W Bush promising, in his words, that “you can count on us whatever”, Lord Wilson “would not have described it [just] as a gleam”.

In his 2010 evidence, Lord Turnbull also spoke of how, “a process of a kind of granny’s footsteps had taken place” over the famous Iraq intelligence dossier. “At each stage,” he said, “you can see another little tweak of the dial.” The central charge Chilcot appears likely to make is that the decision on war was the beginning, not the end, of the process; that an agreement on military action was made early, and secretly, with President Bush; and that it was done without evidential justification, proper procedures, legal advice or adequate military planning.

All three of these were later twisted to fit, most disastrously in the case of the planning, which was kept secret for far too long, meaning that coalition forces were completely unprepared to occupy, secure and rebuild the country they had broken.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and several other witnesses, testified that, “containment” the pre-2002 policy of sanctions on Iraq, appeared to be working. As Mr Straw put it, “Objectively, the threat had not increased.” Why, therefore, was a war needed? The mere fact of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been known, or assumed, for the previous 15 years. It had never been seen as a good enough reason to go to war before. Mr Blair’s key, “sexing-up” was not the statement that Saddam Hussein had WMD – but the claim that those weapons were becoming a, “growing” threat, a threat so, “current and serious” that urgent action, war, if necessary, had to be taken.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the MI6 chief, may be right to be concerned. In secret evidence sessions, whose transcripts were helpfully published only months later, at the height of the News International hacking scandal and, therefore, went almost unnoticed, his own subordinates criticised him for getting too close to Mr Blair. Sir Richard, in his evidence, angrily dismissed the suggestions as, “complete rubbish … I wasn’t sipping chardonnay in the evenings with Tony Blair, or nipping off to have breakfast with him at Chequers … a lot of people were jealous of my position, and, therefore, I think, motivated to talk about it, including [Jack Straw]”.

One of Sir Richard’s MI6 subordinates said that, “there were from the outset concerns” in the service about, “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made”. Another described the famous claim that Iraq could use WMD within 45 minutes of an order being given as, “based in part on wishful thinking” and not, “fully validated”.

Mr Campbell was called an, “unguided missile,” constantly seeking out fresh nuggets to hand out to favoured journalists. Sir Richard, too, admitted that he had felt, “extremely uncomfortable” about the way the 45-minute claim was seized on. “It’s just so awful that that happened,” he said, “because it did refer clearly to battlefield weapons”, weapons that were no threat outside an immediate combat zone.

Yet, the dossier may not figure quite as large in the inquiry’s findings as some expect. Some members, at least, appear to think that Mr Blair’s claim of a, “growing” threat may have been at least partially explained, if not justified, by new (albeit later discredited) intelligence that arrived two weeks before the dossier was published, though too late to verify or include in the document itself. The Chilcot panellists make much of avoiding, “hindsight”, of judging people on the basis of what they knew and believed at the time.

Chris Ames, a writer who has followed Chilcot more closely than almost anyone else, says, “It is an establishment inquiry and I’ll believe it when I see it – but I think it could be a highly critical report. I think you’d have to be stupid to think they will not criticise Blair for taking an early decision to go to war. That’s where they’re going to hang their case. “Chilcot is a mandarin himself – and if he can hang it on the evidence of other people in a similar but more senior position to himself [such as Lord Turnbull] he won’t be going out on a limb.”

May 16 2014: Iraq War inquiry report to be published months before general election

The long-awaited Iraq War inquiry will be published by the end of the year, months before the general election, David Cameron has said. The Prime Minister made clear he was willing to sweep aside concerns by his most senior civil servant Sir Jeremy Heywood about publishing the report, which might break the reputation of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. The decision is likely to be seen as highly controversial as Labour may claim that the publication of the report months before the May 2015 general election could influence the way people vote.

The report could prove difficult for Labour in the build-up to the 2015 general election, reviving the issue of Mr Blair’s decision to take the country to war. The news came moments after Bernard Jenkin, who chairs a Commons committee that oversees the civil service, threatened to summon Sir Jeremy to explain the delay. Mr Jenkin described the delay as “very serious” and said he had written to the Cabinet Office demanding an explanation for the hold-up.

Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry completed public hearings in 2011, but publication of its report is understood to have been held back by negotiations over the publication of private communications between Tony Blair, prime minister at the time of the 2003 conflict, and then-US president George Bush. Mr Cameron told Sky News: “My understanding is that they will be able to publish before the end of the year and I very much hope they can deliver on that timetable. “The public wants to see the answers of the inquiry and I think we shouldn’t have to wait too much longer.”

Mr Jenkin told the BBC’s Daily Politics: “It’s very serious that this report is now at least four years overdue, so we’ve written to the minister to ask for an explanation as to why these delays have occurred, what is holding up the publication of the report and how these issues are going to be resolved. “On the basis of that, we may well call for the minister, or indeed the Cabinet Secretary, to come and give us evidence to explain how they are going to sort this out.”

Following the completion of his inquiry, Sir John began a process known as “Maxwellisation” under which individuals facing criticism in the report are given an opportunity to respond before publication. He has been in discussions with Sir Jeremy – who was principal private secretary to Mr Blair in 10 Downing Street before the war – over what documents to publish. Sir John wants to publish sensitive material, covering some 200 Cabinet-level discussions, 25 notes from Mr Blair to Mr Bush and more than 130 records of conversations between the PM and the US president.

Sir Menzies Campbell MP, who sits on a Parliamentary committee which oversees Britain’s spies told the Daily Politics that Sir John was now “still in dispute with the Cabinet secretary about whether or not there can be ultimately published the exchanges between George W Bush and Tony Blair”. He said the delay was being caused by a debate about how much of Labour’s political journey towards the start of the war is published. He said: “The public interest now is overwhelmingly in favour of understanding the political journey in which the Labour Government under Tony Blair reached the decision to take military action.”

A senior Labour MP who voted against the Iraq War told The Daily Telegraph: “This looks like an out and out party political manoeuvre trying really to interfere in a quasi-judicial process in the hands of a former senior civil servant. “They should not be interfering just before a general election. I would rather it was out it in the next few weeks or the next month or two. The thing should be out now – because there are questions to be answered about how certain individuals within the Labour government handled that.”

Stop Press wrote: The truth has been buried already. “A highly unusual ruling by Lord Hutton, who chaired the inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death, means medical records including the post-mortem report will remain classified until after all those with a direct interest in the case are dead, the Mail on Sunday said. And a 30-year secrecy order has been placed on written records provided to Lord Hutton’s inquiry which were not produced in evidence.” pmjjd wrote: As a doctor I found the circumstances of Dr Kelly’s death suspicious. The person who found the body remarked that there was little or no blood at the scene. The wrist cuts supposedly involved the ulnar arteries not the radial arteries ( surely Dr Kelly would have been able to identify the radial arteries ) I find it unlikely that the average person could even palpate their own ulnar arteries ( I can’t and I know exactly where to palpate ) Were the incisions made post-mortem ? We need to see these records. Why are they being witheld?

May 30 2014: The truth will out about Blair and Iraq, whatever the Chilcot Inquiry ends up telling us

With their backs to the wall, but resisting still, are the politicians and civil servants who seek to block the inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot into the calamitous Iraq war. A deal between Sir John and the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, was announced on Thursday. It allows extracts from exchanges between Tony Blair and the former US President, George W. Bush to be published but the full texts will remain secret. No wonder the political establishment is worried. It is about to be shown as the ineffective, shortsighted, borderline dishonest group of people that it is. A study by the authoritative Royal United Services Institute released this week gave this opinion: “Far from reducing international terrorism … the 2003 invasion [of Iraq] had the effect of promoting it”.

The Iraq war was indeed the worst error in British foreign policy since the unsuccessful invasion of the Suez Canal in 1956. Confronting the political establishment, pressing on, desperately seeking the truth are, in first place, the families of the 453 British troops who were killed in the conflict and of the 6000 who were wounded. They cannot come to terms with their losses until they know whether their loved ones died and suffered for a worthy cause.

Reginald Keys, whose son Lance Corporal Tom Keys was killed at the age of 21 in 2003, said on BBC2’s Newsnight programme on Thursday, “I need to draw a line under this and until I know the whole truth I can’t. It will be an open wound until the day I die”.

Pushing forward with the families are the many people who want to understand whether Tony Blair and his administration should answer to something like the ancient accusation of, “high crimes and misdemeanors”. It used to be employed in cases involving breaking promises to Parliament, obstructing justice, cronyism and wasting public money. Even now, in the 21st century, the subject matter of Sir John’s inquiry is, in effect, a contemporary version of the antique charge. Consider the terrible accusations directed against Mr Blair and his colleagues. Here are two from the 15 grounds for complaint often cited. The first is misleading Parliament. Members were told that Britain could legally join an invasion. We now know, thanks to what the Chilcot Inquiry has already discovered, that the Prime Minister’s chief legal adviser, Lord Goldsmith, did not agree with this assertion. Next is the charge of misleading the nation over weapons of mass destruction.

In a dossier on Iraq published in September 2002, Mr Blair stated in a foreword that it had been established, “beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein was producing WMD. None has ever been found. In that same month, the Prime Minister informed the Commons, “[Saddam’s] weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working.” When the Inquiry team told Mr. Blair that it had not seen evidence indicating that the threat from Saddam was growing at the time of the invasion, the former prime minister conceded this was true. “It wasn’t that objectively he had done more. It was that our perception of the risk had shifted.” In other words, what Mr Blair thinks is true is, by definition, true.

Then there is what witnesses to the Inquiry have revealed about the working of the Government. I don’t think of these revelations as being in any way dated or typical of one particular political party. They are the way things have worked for a very long time. The former head of UK armed forces, Admiral Lord Boyce, commented that he suspected that if he had asked half the cabinet whether we were at war, “they wouldn’t know what I was talking about”.

Lt Gen Frederick Viggers, Britain’s senior military representative in Iraq, said we had been, “putting amateurs into really really important positions and people were getting killed as a result of some of their decisions. It’s a huge responsibility and I just don’t sense we lived up to it.“ Without naming individuals, he said he blamed those at the highest levels of government. ”I am not talking about the soldiers and commanders and civilians… who did a great job. But it’s the intellectual horsepower that drives these things [which] needs better co-ordination,“ he said. Better co-ordination? Is that all that was lacking?

The political establishment began to build its defences on the day the Inquiry was announced by the then prime minister, Gordon Brown. The proceedings would take place in private, he said. This decision was subsequently reversed after receiving criticism in the media and in the House of Commons. Then the establishment got back to work.

It was decided that the Inquiry would be unable to receive evidence under oath. Care was also taken with the membership of the Inquiry. Although the subject matter was war, there would be nobody on the team with first-hand military expertise. Nor would there be anybody with legal experience even though legality had been an issue from the beginning. One of the members, the historian Sir Martin Gilbert, had once compared Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill.

Having reached a decision in principle with the Cabinet Secretary, arduous discussions will now take place regarding which documents can be put into the public domain and in what manner. There will be detailed consideration of the so-called “gists” and quotations. From this will emerge a draft final version of the report – “draft” because the last step is to show it in confidence to those who find themselves criticised in order that they may have a chance to make representations before publication if they think they have been unfairly treated. However, I don’t think the seekers after truth should be too disheartened. The Chilcot/Heywood deal represents an advance, even if it does not go as far as many of us would wish.

It is possible that the gap that remains between what the establishment finds it inconvenient to disclose and what genuinely touches on national security or on the freedom of heads of government to write frankly to each other is not very wide. We just don’t know whether that is the case or not at the moment. Yet we live in an age of whistleblowers. We have before us the example of the unauthorised disclosure of literally thousands of classified documents by Edward Snowden, who worked for US intelligence. There will be more leaks. We shall get there in the end.

May 31 2014: Is Sir Sir Jeremy Wormtongue more powerful than the PM?

Unelected, Unaccountable, and under fire for a secret deal to censor the truth about the Iraq war. No 10’s Mr Fixit’s fingerprints are over every major political scandal of recent years.

Just after the last General Election, a 20-page report landed on the desks of a lofty cross-section of British politicians, scientists and business leaders. Marked, “confidential” and prepared by the consulting firm McKinsey, the seemingly nondescript document carried the title,”Rapid restructuring in pharma to navigate turbulent times.” It advised companies in the multi-billion-pound drug industry to take steps to ensure they prospered in an ‘uncertain’ marketplace. Firms were urged to dramatically ‘restructure’, cut costs in order to ‘burn fat’ before attempting to ‘build muscle’ by, among other things, mergers, acquisitions and ‘radical outsourcing’. The tone was dry; academic, even. And were it not for the seismic events that have recently threatened to reshape the global pharmaceutical industry, it might have been quietly forgotten. Instead, it has been dragged into the huge political row over the American drug giant Pfizer’s controversial attempt to take over its British rival AstraZeneca. The £69?billion bid was formally abandoned on Monday, after weeks of fierce debate.

Supporters had described it as exactly the sort of dynamic, forward-thinking corporate move advocated by such industry experts as McKinsey. Opponents, including the board of AstraZeneca, were adamant that Pfizer’s takeover would be bad for the long-term future of the British pharmaceutical industry. Treading a fine line between the two camps was Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, who was asked by David Cameron to, “engage” with the two firms during the contentious negotiations. The 52-year-old Whitehall mandarin, who earns a £190,000 salary, was therefore duty-bound to assess even-handedly the impact of the deal on the national interest.

Many reasonable people might think that such objectivity would be near impossible when, as the Mail reveals, one of the four co-authors of McKinsey’s ‘rapid restructuring’ report was Heywood’s wife. Not surprisingly there has been deep disquiet, given his wife’s strong views on the subject, over the wisdom of Heywood’s appointment. Doubtless Heywood, Britain’s most powerful civil servant, would argue that wherever his wife’s sympathies lie, he always discharges Government responsibilities entirely properly. Not everyone involved in the deal agreed, though. Senior figures at AstraZeneca are said at times to have been incensed by his one-sided stewardship of the takeover.

Now, though, Heywood’s integrity has come under intense scrutiny again concerning his involvement in another huge national controversy. Indeed, if anything illustrates this man’s ability to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds it is his role in the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war. On Thursday, it emerged that he had vetoed the release to the inquiry of vital letters and records of phone calls between Tony Blair and George W. Bush in the run-up to the war. The contents of 150 messages — believed to reveal the real reason Blair dragged Britain into the conflict — will be censored from the £10?million inquiry, thanks to a backroom deal cooked up by Heywood. The shabby compromise is a triumph for Mr Blair, along with the officials who served in Downing Street with him during this highly controversial period. And who was one of the most senior of those officials? None other than Heywood himself! As Blair’s Private Secretary at the time, he was a central member of the inner circle that took Britain to war.

The ineluctable fact is that the entire Downing Street career of this secretive, non-accountable mandarin has been plagued by controversy As with the Pfizer affair, many people are convinced that his dealings with Chilcot are compromised by a clear conflict of interest. Surely he should have stepped aside and not been involved in decisions about what material should be made public?

Indeed, David Davis, a senior Tory MP, told the Mail yesterday that Heywood should have excused himself from the talks. He said: ‘It is wholly inappropriate that the primary decision-maker in this is Jeremy Heywood,’ adding that the Cabinet Secretary had a ‘vested interest in secrecy’ and had ended up brokering a deal that represents ‘improper, bad governance’. But then the ineluctable fact is that the entire Downing Street career of this secretive, non-accountable mandarin, who has inveigled his way into the inner sanctum of the Blair, Brown and Cameron premierships despite not having been elected, has been plagued by controversy. During a 15-year period, the fingerprints of Heywood (who the BBC has called ‘the most important person in the country that nobody has ever heard of’) can be found on virtually every crisis, scandal and major Downing Street decision in recent history. His track record includes:

i. Botching the official Downing Street response to the 2012, “Pleb- gate” scandal involving former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell.
ii. Persuading David Cameron to support the failed 2012 merger of British arms giant BAE Systems and European rival EADS, despite having close links to a bank at the centre of the deal.
iii. Ensuring, despite opposition from elected ministers, that Lord Justice Leveson’s investigation into the Press was granted draconian Judicial Inquiry status.
iv. Engineering the disastrous flotation of the Southern Cross care homes group in 2006, which left more than 30,000 elderly and vulnerable people facing being made homeless.
v. Failing to properly oversee that year’s bidding process for the West Coast main line rail franchise, which needlessly cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds.
vi. Being suspected of attempting to block Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms. Some even suspect him of agitating for the Work and Pensions Secretary’s sacking.
vii. Clashing with Mr Cameron’s policy guru Steve Hilton, leading to Hilton’s move to a job in California.

Some claim he strengthened his own power base by helping his predecessor orchestrate the post-2010 election negotiations between David Cameron and Nick Clegg that led to the formation of the Coalition, which inevitably made the role of Cabinet Secretary much more important. Little wonder that he is known across Whitehall as, “Sir Jeremy Wormtongue”, after the Machiavellian Lord Of The Rings character who whispers gossip into a king’s ear in order to further his own agenda. Yet as the focus is increasingly placed on his over-mighty role in No?10, more and more questions are being asked about what exactly lies behind that agenda.

Earlier this month it emerged that Heywood’s previous employer, the giant American bank Morgan Stanley, was intimately involved in the Pfizer negotiations, advising AstraZeneca. Adrian Bailey, Labour chairman of the Commons Business Select Committee, said the revelation, “reinforces the public view that there is an inner circle of politicians and bankers working in each other’s interests”. Mr Bailey’s colleague, MP Debbie Abrahams, went so far as to ask in Parliament whether Heywood’s apparent, “lack of independence is in the public interest”. In reply, the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, insisted Heywood had been impartial throughout.

Adrian Bailey, Labour chairman of the Commons Business Select Committee, said there was an, “inner circle of politicians and bankers working in each other’s interests”. Commentators nevertheless described the decision to let Heywood oversee the Pfizer bid as akin to leaving a fox in charge of a hen coop.

It was doubly odd, they pointed out, since Heywood had faced a barrage of similar criticism two years ago for appearing to take a pro-active role in another proposed mega-merger, between arms manufacturer BAE and its European rival EADS. The deal threatened Britain’s security by jeopardising sensitive military intelligence operations with the U.S. and was said to imperil 38,000 British jobs. That time, his links to Morgan Stanley were again questioned, since the U.S. bank stood to gain millions from brokering the deal. Though there was no evidence that Heywood would personally benefit from the merger, David Davis MP condemned his role, saying: ‘I think it highly unusual for someone as senior as the Cabinet Secretary to be involved in a deal like this.’

An analysis of Heywood’s career makes it very clear that he has an uncanny knack for placing his manicured fingers on the levers of power. ‘The fact that he’s been in the inner circle of Labour and Tory prime ministers, and had the ear of both Blair and Brown — even when they weren’t speaking to each other — tells you everything you need to know about the skills he brings to Downing Street,’ says one insider. ‘Heywood sees where the mood is, identifies the most powerful person on whom his future depends, then works his way into their inner circle.’

The son of a teacher at the private Bootham School in York, which he himself attended, Heywood’s background is classic Sir Humphrey: Oxford University, the LSE and then the civil service. He rose seamlessly through its ranks. Today, he operates out of a tennis court-sized room at the Cabinet Office, which has discreet internal access to Downing Street. On an average day, Heywood is believed to spend between two and three hours with David Cameron — making him a senior member of the so-called ‘chumocracy’, that small cabal of privately educated, Oxbridge graduates who make up the PM’s clique. “Mr Cameron trusts him implicitly,” I’m told. “He’s one of the first people he calls each morning and last people he speaks to at night.” In addition to attending Cabinet meetings, Heywood is one of the group of four — along with Chancellor George Osborne, press chief Craig Oliver and head of staff Ed Llewellyn — who attend the PM’s daily 8.30am and 4pm strategy meetings.

His influence is such that Cameron is said to have once asked, only half in jest: “Remind me, Jeremy, do you work for me or do I work for you?” Like any successful courtier, Heywood can sometimes stir jealousy in MPs and ministers — who, unlike him, have actually been elected — or other colleagues. Steve Hilton, Cameron’s director of strategy, resigned in 2012 and his departure is said to have been hastened by a clash of personalities with Heywood. ‘Almost every time Steve floated a policy, Heywood was the one in the room sucking his teeth and saying “No”,’ says one Hilton ally. “He saw off Steve’s attempts to reform the Civil Service and introduce more elected mayors.”

More recently, allies of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have muttered that Heywood has attempted to block welfare reforms. Some even suspect him of agitating for the minister’s sacking. ‘The night before the last reshuffle, David Cameron called Iain and said he was going to remove him from the Department of Work and Pensions and make him Attorney General,” says one well-placed source. “Iain replied that if that happened, he’d resign. In the event, Cameron had second thoughts. But Iain’s card has been marked and he knows who to

Another senior Tory with a less than rosy opinion of Heywood is Andrew Mitchell, who resigned as Chief Whip after swearing at Downing Street police officers in the so-called ‘Plebgate’ affair. Heywood conducted the original investigation into the incident. A damning report by MPs later heavily criticised him for failing to take even basic steps to check facts. A report for the Channel 4 Dispatches programme showed how easy it was, thanks to CCTV footage of the incident, to prove that Mitchell had been, “stitched up”. According to one critic of Heywood: “He didn’t do that. It was a shambles.” Bernard Jenkin, Tory chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, then released a report saying the Cabinet Secretary had, “clearly failed to uncover the truth”.

Heywood’s competence was again questioned in 2012 when he was asked by Mr Cameron to look into claims that the Department for Transport was using incorrect figures while considering bids for the West Coast rail franchise. The No?10 Mr Fixit looked into the matter and told the PM that nothing was amiss. But later it emerged that he was wrong and tens of millions of taxpayers’ money had been lost as a result. Heywood is said to resent the adverse publicity such episodes bring. “He’s a classic mandarin who likes to operate in the shadows, dislikes the Press and believes he should never be part of the story,” says one Whitehall insider.

Indeed, his distaste for media scrutiny was most evident during the phone-hacking scandal, when he is said to have been the man responsible for persuading David Cameron to appoint Lord Justice Leveson to investigate the newspaper industry. He saw that the inquiry was granted judicial status, giving Leveson a staggering degree of power to compel witnesses to give evidence — something which, tellingly, was not available to Chilcot. When Education Secretary Michael Gove commented that the inquiry threatened Press freedom, Leveson phoned Heywood to complain.

Heywood’s distaste for the limelight is long-standing. In the mid-Nineties, he embarked on a romance with his future wife, Suzanne, who was then working under him at the Treasury. Jill Rutter, a press secretary at the department, reported their subsequent engagement in the in-house newsletter. She said that far from being honoured, “Jeremy was furious” at the supposed invasion of privacy. Heywood and Suzanne married in 1997, shortly before he was picked by Tony Blair to be his Private Secretary.

An analysis of Heywood’s career makes it very clear that he has an uncanny knack for placing his manicured fingers on the levers of power His arrival in Downing Street coincided with the advent of so-called Blairite, “sofa government,” in which key decisions were taken by a small group of insiders. “It was an environment that suited Jeremy perfectly, because he’s a consummate office politician and was able to inveigle himself into that circle,” says a former colleague. “There was also a time, in the darkest days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s
relationship, when he was the only person both camps would talk with. That gave him huge additional power.”

With power, however, came criticism. He was one of a handful of figures at the Downing Street meeting at which it was decided to publicly name weapons inspector Dr David Kelly — who later committed suicide? — as a source for a BBC story about the Iraq war.

The Hutton Inquiry later heard that, in a remarkable breach of Whitehall procedure, Heywood failed to take minutes of the meeting. If there is one thing that a civil servant should be capable of, surely, it is to keep an accurate record. After the Iraq invasion, Heywood took a break from the civil service, joining Morgan Stanley. This lucrative move lasted three years and helped facilitate the £1,485,000 purchase of his family home in south London. The property, to which he recently added a walk-in wine cellar, is now valued at £2.5?million.

His time at the investment bank would come back to bite him in 2011, however, when it emerged that he had been the ultimate head of the Morgan Stanley team that advised on the flotation of the Southern Cross care home group in 2006. The controversial deal, which saw care homes for the elderly hived off from the company that ran them, was hugely profitable for Morgan Stanley. But it led to the collapse of the firm, leaving 31,000 frail and elderly residents in its 750 homes worried where they would live, and threatening 3,000 jobs. Heywood was said by the GMB union to be, “up to his neck” in the scandal, accusing him of being, “ringside” during the disastrous financial engineering.

Yet for all the criticism, Heywood’s star has continued to rise and he has consolidated his Downing Street power base, particularly as a result of the Coalition Government. An insider explains, “When you have a coalition, you also need a moderator, someone at the centre of people pulling in different directions. He’s that man. It makes him more important than ever.”Having helped create the current coalition, Heywood is believed to be preparing Whitehall for another one, having come to the view that next year’s General Election could well deliver another inconclusive result. Whatever the result of next year’s vote, the chances are that however many disasters he’s involved in, this political chameleon will retain his seat at the heart of British government. And jigger the cost to the British people.

May 31 2014: Shine a light on this unaccountable clique

Shadowy, secretive, never held to account, he is the political fixer the BBC calls ‘the most important person in the country that nobody has ever heard of’. Today, increasingly unsettling questions are being raised about the role and influence of Britain’s most powerful mandarin, Sir Jeremy Heywood. Indeed, the Cabinet Secretary epitomises the cliquey, detached cronyism of modern government, against which voters rose up so resoundingly last week.

In what seems a blatant conflict of interest, Sir Jeremy is the former Private Secretary to Tony Blair who triumphed on Thursday in his campaign to prevent the Chilcot Inquiry from publishing the details of his ex-boss’s communications with George Bush before the Iraq War. Thus, he has fatally undermined the five-year, £10million inquiry’s brief to reveal the full truth about the invasion.

But as Guy Adams exposes in his Saturday report, this is far from the first time Sir Jeremy’s private interests have appeared to clash with his public duty of neutrality. At the time of drugs giant Pfizer’s failed £69billion bid for AstraZeneca, many questioned why it was necessary for him to become involved, apparently working behind the scenes to oil negotiations. Disturbingly, it now emerges his wife co-wrote an influential report by the global consultancy firm McKinsey, advocating mergers in the pharmaceutical industry.

Consider too Sir Jeremy’s part in persuading David Cameron to back the rejected 2012 merger of arms firm BAE Systems with its rival EADS, despite his links with a leading bank involved. This is not to mention his back-room role in the Plebgate affair; his failure to take minutes of the meeting that sealed Dr David Kelly’s fate; or the rumours he tried to derail IDS’s welfare reforms.

What is so profoundly wrong is that an unelected figure such as Sir Jeremy, sliding smoothly from Mr Blair’s sofa to the inner counsels of Gordon Brown and Mr Cameron, exercises so much power beyond the spotlight of public scrutiny. Indeed, he and his like, now setting the guidelines for another coalition, are shielded even under the 20-year rule from exposure of their role. (And how significant that Sir Jeremy is said to have been behind the decision to grant draconian judicial status to the Leveson Inquiry – something even Chilcot didn’t have). In the local and Euro-elections, voters made clear their exasperation with a ruling elite sealed off from their concerns. It’s time to throw open the curtains of Whitehall to fresh air and light.

June 2 2014: The Chilcot inquiry critics should be careful what they wish for

Stitch-up, cover-up and whitewash have been widely used. Such doubts are perhaps understandable in view of past failures by inquiries from Hillsborough onwards. It is hard for the public and the media, to take official assurances on trust and for the inquiry to demonstrate its independence ahead of its report. But, in this case, the critics are wrong both in principle and in practice. Of course, Tony Blair and others should be held to account for their decisions and errors in the most controversial, and bloody, military action for decades, a more damaging failure for many than even the Suez conflict of 1956. The Chilcot inquiry has taken far, far too long, partly because its remit has been too wide and partly because of inherent problems of disclosure when much of the material relates to relations between governments.
Yet none of this material has been hidden from the inquiry. Sir John and his team have apparently seen everything.

The question is how much they can disclose to back up their conclusions. And here the issues of principle are much trickier than the ‘disclose everything’ advocates acknowledge. This is not about domestic advice and discussions, much of which is already public. There is never a clear dividing line between the past and the present.

Governments cannot ignore current relationships with other countries. If the transcripts of the Blair/Bush conversations were published in full, would President Obama, or another foreign leader, any longer be candid or open in their talks with David Cameron? There are risks which no government can responsibly ignore. A similar point applies to the disclosure of detailed intelligence material, a problem faced by the abortive Detainee inquiry (on which I served).

It was therefore correct to seek a compromise, even though it has taken a very long time. The agreement, brokered by the much vilified Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, is, in reality, not an exercise in secrecy, but a big step towards disclosure – despite the strong doubts of lawyers, diplomats and the Americans. Whatever conclusions the Chilcot inquiry reaches, readers will find out what the views of Mr Blair were, what he said and did. Agreement has been reached on the publication of a number of full extracts of minutes of the most critical ministerial meetings, and of some international communications.

On the most contentious issue of the Blair/Bush exchanges, there will be gists and quotes sufficient for the inquiry to explain its conclusions, only excluding President Bush’s views. This goes much further than many in Whitehall would have liked. Of course, the Iraq war was exceptional, but the level of disclosure will be exceptional. So instead of damning an establishment cover-up, the critics should think about the wider consequences of what they are seeking. Sir Jeremy is, like other Cabinet Secretaries, unable to defend himself now from over-the-top personal attacks, but his critics may turn out to be surprised by the robustness and comprehensiveness of the final report.

The dilemma was well summed-up in the chairman’s foreword to the, “Review of the 30 Year Rule” in January 2009 which recommended a 15 year delay before official records are released. “There are many good reasons why state records need to be kept confidential for a specific period of time and there is a very necessary tension between the understandable need for governments to work in some privacy and the equally understandable wish of the people to know what is being done in their names”. The chairman was Paul Dacre, then and now the editor of the Daily Mail, which has described the Chilcot/Heywood agreement as ‘a shabby whitewash’.

September 14 2014: Chilcot report on Iraq war, “might be after election”

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is still making fresh requests for the release of classified government papers, suggesting that its report is unlikely to be published before the general election. Government sources say Sir John Chilcot and his team are still filing a “steady stream” of requests asking civil servants to declassify documents that he wants to quote in his report – meaning it is still being written. So far the inquiry has cost more than £9m including £1.5m in the last financial year, even though it was not sitting. Senior politicians and officials fear it will not be published before December at the earliest and warn that if it is not ready by the end of February it may have to be delayed until after the election.

A spokesman for the inquiry confirmed yesterday that the process of Maxwellisation, whereby Sir John will warn those he intends to criticise, has not started. That process is expected to take at least two months. Civil servants had believed the report was close to being signed off and published at the end of May when Sir John struck a deal with Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, to allow some cabinet papers and the “gist” of Tony Blair’s conversations with George W Bush before the war to be published. But, since then, insiders say that Sir John appears not to have finished writing the report as he is still issuing requests to clear papers for publication. One senior source suggested the inquiry chairman may also be having to balance the views of different members of his panel which may be contributing to the delay.

A spokesman for the inquiry said: “Maxwellisation has not recommenced as yet,” and referred to evidence given by Sir Jeremy to the Public Administration Select Committee last Monday.There, Sir Jeremy said: “There has been a delay of sorts as we processed tens of thousands of requests for declassification of very complicated and sensitive documents. It is a very difficult thing. The controversy around this continues today. It is very important that the whole story is told. “We have tried our level best to break through normal conventions and the legal requirements and the international relations and the nine different categories that the original protocols suggested might be a reason for not publishing material – we have had to work through all of that in good faith as fast as we possibly can to try to make sure the whole story is laid bare.” “I believe John Chilcot is happy on where we have got to on that point. I am absolutely confident that the finished report will be as transparent as it needs to be.”

November 2014; Iraq Inquiry: why Sir Jeremy Heywood should be stripped of his role immediately

Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, is blocking the publication of correspondence between George W Bush and Tony Blair ahead of the Iraq War, together with later correspondence between Gordon Brown and Mr Bush – thus effectively stalling the already heavily delayed Iraq Inquiry.

No security issues are at stake. The blocking of the correspondence between Downing Street and the White House is an affront to democracy and prevents us from forming a judgment about the most disastrous war in recent British history. Sir Jeremy Heywood should now be removed from all decisions relating to the Iraq Inquiry, because he was himself deeply involved in the flawed government process in the run-up to and after the invasion of Iraq.

Sir Jeremy was appointed Tony Blair’s principal private secretary in 1999. Within a short space of time (as his senior colleagues have told me in detail) he became an intrinsic part of the collapse of the process of government which took place after 1997.

As Sir Robin Butler graphically described, the principles of sound, accountable administration were abandoned and replaced by “sofa government”. Decisions were made informally by a small coterie including Blair, Alastair Campbell, Jonathan Powell and Anji Hunter. Sir Jeremy was the only civil servant who was granted full access to the sofa.

The sloppiness of this new Downing Street machinery became manifest in the summer of 2003 when the Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly tried to reconstruct the process which led to the release of the name of the MOD scientist in national newspapers. Lord Hutton learnt that four meetings, all involving senior officials and cabinet ministers, each chaired by the prime minister, took place in Downing Street to discuss Dr Kelly in the 48 hours before his name was released. In an amazing breach of normal Whitehall procedures, not one of these meetings was minuted at the time.

In the normal course of events it should have been the job of the principal private secretary to the prime minister – ie Jeremy Heywood – to draw up these minutes. Yet he did not do so. This episode shows that Sir Jeremy Heywood is much too implicated in these matters to be permitted to make decisions of deep sensitivity concerning the White House/Downing Street correspondence.

David Cameron must now urgently intervene to strip Sir Jeremy of his role, and take control of the decision himself. If he fails to do this, the Prime Minister himself risks becoming complicit in what now looks more and more like a giant cover-up involving elements of the British establishment and political class to prevent the truth becoming known about how we became involved in the Iraq War.

November 12 2013: The Chilcot Inquiry – Cabinet boss must not decide on Iraq papers, says Owen: Former Foreign Secretary demands Sir Jeremy Heywood be stripped of responsibility because he worked closely with Tony Blair

David Owen has demanded that Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood be stripped of responsibility for deciding whether key documents can be published by the Iraq Inquiry. The inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot complained last week that his probe has stalled indefinitely because Sir Jeremy is blocking the release of correspondence between Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and US President George W. Bush. But Lord Owen, who was a Labour Foreign Secretary in the late 70s, said Sir Jeremy is not the right, “arbiter” of whether the papers are released since he also worked closely with Mr Blair in the run up to war.

In a letter to David Cameron yesterday, Lord Owen wrote, “Sir Jeremy Heywood was Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair in No 10 from 1999-2003, the very time when the decisions to go to war were being taken. “I cannot believe that now as Cabinet Secretary he can be the arbiter as to whether documents should be published between Sir John Chilcot and Tony Blair. It is obvious that there are differences of opinion as Sir John writes in his letter to you that it is regrettable that the Government and the Inquiry have not reached an agreement.”

In a direct challenge to the Prime Minister, Lord Owen urged Mr Cameron to assert his authority and hand the responsibility to Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling, who already has responsibility for deciding which government papers can be released under the 30-year rule. “Who is the Government?” he asks, “You as Prime Minister? The Cabinet? Surely not for the reasons I have given, the Cabinet Secretary? I suggest you ask the Lord Chancellor to form a judgement on behalf of the Government as to what papers can be released.” He added, “The Iraq Inquiry involves a decision to declare war and from the moment it was established it was clear it would involve examination of international discussions between British Prime Ministers and US Presidents. If there is a precedent it is the inquiry held during the First World War to examine the Dardanelles.”

In a letter to Mr Cameron last week, Sir John revealed that he has asked for, “more than 130 records of conversations” between Mr Brown, Tony Blair and Mr Bush to be declassified. The hold up has also involves whether to make public, “25 Notes from Mr Blair to President Bush” and “some 200 Cabinet-level discussions”. In his letter, Sir John said, “It is regrettable that the Government and the Inquiry have not reached a final position on the disclosure of these more difficult categories of document”.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said, “The Inquiry and Government agreed in the Inquiry’s Documents Protocol that the Cabinet Secretary should be the final arbiter of declassification – that remains unchanged and has the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s full support. “At the outset the Government assured the Inquiry of its full cooperation and it continues to do so.” Allies of Sir Jeremy pointed out that Mr Cameron has asked the Cabinet Secretary to take a lead on the declassification of the documents, “and that remains his view”.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly relied on Sir Jeremy – for instance on the No 10 probe of the plebgate allegations against former chief whip Andrew Mitchell – where MPs think he should have given to the responsibility to others. Follow up: Letter from Sir John Chilcot to Sir Jeremy Heywood – 28 May 2014

November 2014; The Unminuted 10 Downing Street, 14 March 2003 meeting attended by Lord Goldsmith, (Attorney General) Lady Falconer and Baroness Morgan.

At the meeting it is alleged Goldsmith had agreed to change his legal advice for a second time re waging war on Iraq. At the Butler Inquiry, Goldsmith was asked whether the meeting between the three unelected persons was minuted, to which Goldsmith cavalierly responded that he had no idea whether it was minuted. Had I been Butler I would have said, well, you were the Attorney General and you, “were pinned to the wall” (a quote from the Chilcot Inquiry) by Falconer and Morgan and you were discussing something as serious as taking the country to war, and changing your legal advice for a second time (because Sir Michael Boyce, Chief of the Armed Forces at the time, had sought a late assurance from Blair that the war would be legal because he did not want himself and those under his command branded as war criminals) and you did not ensure that the meeting was minuted?! You really could not make this up! Oh, but, it gets worse: it was said that Goldsmith later regretted that he had not resigned but that he had not done so because his wife was a leading Labour socialite and wanted him to remain Attorney General so that she could continue to party. Also, Margaret Aldred should not be running the Chilcot Inquiry for many reasons which the mainstream press have failed to report,

Nvember 2008; Former senior law lord condemns ‘serious violation of international law’

One of Britain’s most authoritative judicial figures last night delivered a blistering attack on the invasion of Iraq, describing it as a serious violation of international law, and accusing Britain and the US of acting like a “world vigilante”.

Lord Bingham, in his first major speech since retiring as the senior law lord, rejected the then attorney general’s defence of the 2003 invasion as fundamentally flawed. Contradicting head-on Lord Goldsmith’s advice that the invasion was lawful, Bingham stated: “It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had.” Adding his weight to the body of international legal opinion opposed to the invasion, Bingham said that to argue, as the British government had done, that Britain and the US could unilaterally decide that Iraq had broken UN resolutions “passes belief”. Governments were bound by international law as much as by their domestic laws, he said. “The current ministerial code,” he added “binding on British ministers, requires them as an overarching duty to ‘comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations’.” The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continue to press for an independent inquiry into the circumstances around the invasion. The government says an inquiry would be harmful while British troops are in Iraq. Ministers say most of the remaining 4,000 will leave by mid-2009.

Addressing the British Institute of International and Comparative Law last night, Bingham said: “If I am right that the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and some other states was unauthorised by the security council there was, of course, a serious violation of international law and the rule of law. “For the effect of acting unilaterally was to undermine the foundation on which the post-1945 consensus had been constructed: the prohibition of force (save in self-defence, or perhaps, to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe) unless formally authorised by the nations of the world empowered to make collective decisions in the security council …” The moment a state treated the rules of international law as binding on others but not on itself, the compact on which the law rested was broken, Bingham argued. Quoting a comment made by a leading academic lawyer, he added: “It is, as has been said, ‘the difference between the role of world policeman and world vigilante’.” Bingham said he had very recently provided an advance copy of his speech to Goldsmith and to Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion of Iraq. He told his audience he should make it plain they challenged his conclusions.

Both men emphasised that point last night by intervening to defend their views as consistent with those held at the time of the invasion. Goldsmith said in a statement: “I stand by my advice of March 2003 that it was legal for Britain to take military action in Iraq. I would not have given that advice if it were not genuinely my view. Lord Bingham is entitled to his own legal perspective five years after the event.” Goldsmith defended what is known as the “revival argument” – namely that Saddam Hussein had failed to comply with previous UN resolutions which could now take effect. Goldsmith added that Tony Blair had told him it was his “unequivocal view” that Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations to give up weapons of mass destruction. Straw said last night that he shared Goldsmith’s view. He continued: “However controversial the view that military action was justified in international law it was our attorney general’s view that it was lawful and that view was widely shared across the world.”

Bingham also criticised the post-invasion record of Britain as “an occupying power in Iraq”. It is “sullied by a number of incidents, most notably the shameful beating to death of Mr Baha Mousa [a hotel receptionist] in Basra [in 2003]“, he said.
Such breaches of the law, however, were not the result of deliberate government policy and the rights of victims had been recognised, Bingham observed. He contrasted that with the “unilateral decisions of the US government” on issues such as the detention conditions in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. After referring to mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib, Bingham added: “Particularly disturbing to proponents of the rule of law is the cynical lack of concern for international legality among some top officials in the Bush administration.”

July 2009; The Chilcot Inquiry – Margaret Aldred (Secretary to the Chairman) appointed.

Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of the Iraq inquiry, has already said that he wants to hold as many hearings in public as possible, and now he has given a further indication of his desire for maximum openness. The Cabinet Office issued a news release last night saying that Chilcot and his team would hold a press conference soon to explain how they will carry out their work. It’s expected to take place towards the end of this month. Chilcot is a former civil servant – who ended his career as permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office. There have been complaints that the inquiry will have an establishment bias.

Chilcot has also named the secretary to the inquiry – ie the official who actually runs it. She’s Margaret Aldred, a career civil servant who spent 25 years at the Ministry of Defence and who is currently director general and deputy head of the foreign and defence policy secretariat in the Cabinet Office. She was appointed CBE in the 1991 Gulf honours list. She also worked as principal private secretary to two Tory defence secretaries, first Sir Malcolm Rifkind and then Michael Portillo.

Michel Portillo said about her; “She’s meticulous, loyal, fierce, definitely fierce. I would think she would do a good job. Obviously, she has a background in defence. She knows the subject. She will be very mindful of national security. But beyond that it’s difficult to predict how she will tackle it really. You are more or less bound to appoint such an establishment figure because, first, establishment figures know how to get things done and, second, they understand what they are looking for.

Deputy Head of the Foreign and Defense Policy Secretariat Margaret Aldred

Returning to the subject of Inquiry secretary Margaret Aldred’s involvement in the government’s Iraq policy in the four and a half years before she took up her current role, a US embassy cable published by Wikileaks places her at a meeting less than a year before the Inquiry started, where a key issue of Iraq policy was discussed.

On the Inquiry website, Ms Aldred’s job title is rather archly stated as “Director General and Deputy Head of the Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat in the Cabinet Office”. In other words, she has two roles. Firstly she is the deputy to the head of the entire Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat, so she covers all parts of the world just as MacDonald does. Secondly she is ‘Director General’, to which the obvious question is ‘Director General for what?’ And the answer is clearly Director General for something that the Inquiry wanted to conceal because to reveal it would be embarrassing.

No doubt the Defence and Overseas Policy Secretariat is divided into geographic sections and each section is headed by a Director General. e.g., there is presumably a Director General for Africa. Being the Deputy Head, Ms Aldred is presumably the most senior of these Director Generals, and I assume that she is the Director General for the Middle East, or it could even be, as Iraqi policy was so prominent, that they established a specific Iraq section and she was Director General for Iraq. It makes sense to have the most senior Director General take on the issue that was the most difficult and politically explosive.

We are told she has had this role since 2004. We can assume that she took the leading role in developing the Cabinet Office strategy for Iraq between 2004 and 2009, and so her attendance at a meeting such as the one referred to here would be automatic. In fact, one might surmise that with the Iraq involvement having come to an end, she might have been at a bit of a loose end. So the timing of the opportunity to transfer her to be the Inquiry Secretary might have been quite convenient. Now all she has to do is deliver a ‘successful’ final report and she might expect to be rewarded with a promotion. Perhaps a permanent secretary somewhere? And a title would be nice. Not that this would in any way inhibit her in carrying out her duties to the Inquiry of course. Perish the thought.

Margaret Aldred and the rendition cover-up

In January 2006 the New Statesman published a leaked Foreign Office memo from the previous month that discussed what the UK government knew about rendition, extraordinary rendition and torture at US interrogation centres. Having established that the US was using its own definitions of torture to ignore international conventions, the memo asked: “How do we know whether those our Armed Forces have helped to capture in Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently been sent to interrogation centres?” The question is a very pertinent one and should be a very important question for the Iraq Inquiry.

In 2008, former SAS trooper Ben Griffin revealed the answer: “Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture, a former SAS soldier said yesterday. Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the Telegraph: “We would not transfer an individual to any country if we believed there was a risk of mistreatment.” Unfortunately, this had long been contradicted by the leaked memo, whose answer to its “how do we know?” question was: “Cabinet Office is researching this with MOD. But we understand the basic answer is that we have no mechanism for establishing this, though we would not ourselves question such detainees while they were in such facilities.” The memo was copied to Nigel Sheinwald and Margaret Aldred at the Cabinet, Office, presumably because it was their section, Defence and Overseas Secretariat that was doing the research. We do not know what answer the Cabinet Office came up with. We do know that the MoD was so keen for the truth not to come out that it obtained an injunction to prevent Griffin repeating his claims.

We also know that the Iraq Inquiry, with Margaret Aldred as its secretary, has avoided the subject. The Inquiry has not published a single document from Aldred’s time dealing with Iraq policy at the Cabinet Office and has therefore not published the outcome of the Cabinet Office’s “research”. As Griffin told me: “It looks as if the Inquiry has been steered away from this issue.”

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