This Iraq inquiry farce is a disgrace to the country
The charade of historical allegations against our servicemen and women is continuing unabated with Iraq Fatality Investigations, a government-funded inquiry.
The pursuit of service personnel through the courts is a stain on our national character. It is the mark of a political system that has for too long talked, but not played, a very good game when it comes to looking after and valuing those who serve.
The leaks to The Times of the proposed defence cuts last autumn were another stark reminder of the pressures our military is under, and the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, was right to refuse them. He must now find his courage again.
The process of historical allegations is not acceptable. It is not simply the sense of injustice I feel about Major Rob Campbell, who despite being cleared of wrongdoing faces an eighth inquiry into his conduct in Iraq in 2003, but for others subject to what my fellow MP Tom Tugendhat has called “lawfare”.
There will always be legal advice for ministers to pursue these cases. But there was legal advice for David Cameron to allow prisoners the vote, and he stood by his beliefs and rejected it. This issue requires strong political leadership once more. The government must state, once and for all, that it is not right to allow our service personnel to be treated in this manner.
Yes, investigate. We must always root out bad practice. Those who break the law must be held to account, however uncomfortable this may be. But the efforts of rewriting history through the courts in Northern Ireland, or through Iraq inquiries which have been shown, as in the case of the disgraced former solicitor Phil Shiner, to be open to the worst kinds of abuse, must end.
I came into politics to try to reset this nation’s relationship with its military. It is clear that despite some successes, I have failed thus far. We have disparate veterans’ care, historical allegations, savage reductions across all three services and a declining offer to these special men and women.
The defence secretary knows that if he is truly to gain respect, he must tackle difficult and lonely decisions. Some things on his desk require genuine political commitment and courage to match the standards we expect from those in uniform. He can close the IFI, which was set up on a false premise. He needs to do so.