Potential Goldsmith leak worries Labour, excites opposition

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April 26, 2005

The UK Labour party are preparing for the worst as expectations of a new leak in the wake of the Iraq war continue to rise. The possibility that 13 pages of legal advice by the attorney general Lord Goldsmith will be made public has caused a stir as tensions in the race for the upcoming general election continue to build.


The memo, allegedly prepared for the prime minister by Lord Goldsmith on the 7th of March 2003 and containing reservations about the legality of entering into war without a second UN resolution, is considered by opposition leaders and anti-war groups to lend proof to allegations that Mr Blair misled the cabinet, the department of defence and the British public before the 2003 invasion. The Daily Mail claimed that six different reservations were laid out by the attorney general in his legal advice. Controversy surrounds the memo due to the Government's repeated claims that Lord Goldsmith's opinion on the war's legality was unequivocal. Many believe that should it emerge that there were indeed doubts, the failure of the prime minister to inform the public of them constitutes a violation of trust - with Liberal Democrats claiming that the election must become a referendum on Iraq and the trustworthiness of Mr Blair.

The controversy hinges on whether the Government honestly reflected the opinion of the attorney general in its press releases before, during and since the war. It is asserted that Mr Blair has claimed the private memo was of the same opinion as the published answer of March 17 2003, implying that Goldsmith was unequivocal about the legality of the war throughout his deliberation. However, a spokesman for the attorney general has dismissed any claims that the March 17 answer was ever purported to be a summary of Lord Goldsmith's advice. This stance has been echoed by the head of the civil service, Sir Andrew Turnbull, in his words to the public administration select committee.


Should the document emerge, it is likely that the government will maintain that the memo was never supposed to be construed as the attorney general's final opinion on the war's legality, and that his advice was subsequently modified after written assurances from the prime minister about Saddam Hussein's threat to the authority of the UN.


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