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Damning evidence of Blair's dishonesty

I have never told a lie, Tony Blair insisted on Sky TV last night. But within half an hour, a devastating bombshell on Channel 4 News blew his credibility to smithereens and proved conclusively that over Iraq he was again lying through his teeth.

No longer is there any room for doubt. This Prime Minister not only took Britain to war on false pretences. He also misrepresented the confidential legal advice from Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to give a dishonest summary to MPs and even his own Cabinet.

Mr Blair has insisted all along that the war was unequivocally legal, that he had been given no caveats or conflicting advice and that the Attorney General had never changed his mind. But those words are now exposed as utterly false.

Lord Goldsmith warned that failure to secure a second UN resolution authorising war would force the Government 'urgently' to reconsider its legal case.

He warned that to invade Iraq without a second resolution, "we would need to demonstrate hard evidence of noncompliance and non co-operation."

Yet no such 'hard evidence' existed. Indeed, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix was at that very moment making it clear that Saddam was starting to comply.

Consider what happened next in this squalid saga.

All the Attorney General's doubts were sent to Mr Blair on March 7, 2003. Yet somehow none of them appeared in the 'summary' of his advice given to MPs and the Cabinet ten days later, on March 17.

'Stinks to high heaven'

This affair stinks to high heaven. It is now clear that the Government's chief legal officer - the very cornerstone of a healthy democracy - has prostituted his office for political ends.

We also have ineluctable evidence that the Cabinet was denied the opportunity to see his full report - in itself a flagrant breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

Make no mistake: If Blair had told the truth about the legal reservations, it is very possible that Parliament would never have voted for war. The lives of 86 British troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians might not have been lost.

So what happened in those ten days to produce such a dramatic change in Goldmith's legal advice? Were his arms twisted in Downing Street by his friend Charlie Falconer and Baroness Morgan? One thing is sure. Unless he can come up with a very convincing explanation, his reputation is damaged beyond repair.

And the Prime Minister? The BBC spent all yesterday trying to denigrate the latest Tory poster. It shows Blair's picture with the lacerating slogan: "If he's prepared to lie to take us to war, he's prepared to lie to win an election".

Never were words more prescient. It is difficult to remember any precedent in recent times for such an attack on the personal integrity of a party leader. But then, it is hard to recall any recent Prime Minister who has so demeaned his office.

And it isn't simply because of his record on Iraq, with its dodgy dossiers, his denial that he had any part in hounding weapons expert Dr David Kelly to his death and now his lies about the legal case for war.

He once claimed he would be 'purer than pure', but has been up to his neck in sleaze, from Bernie Ecclestone to the Hindujas and Mandelson (twice) to Lakshmi Mittal.

This is the man who has politicised the civil service, undermined the integrity of our intelligence agencies, disdained the Commons, neutered the Lords, opened the way to electoral fraud through a reckless expansion of postal voting, promoted useless cronies and encouraged his liar-in-chief Alastair Campbell to corrupt decent standards in public life.

Mr Blair's mendacious behaviour over the Attorney General's memorandum brings shame and discredit to his office. He is unfit to be Prime Minister.

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