Sir Roderic Lyne has never forgiven the Blair regime for making a prat of him in 2003. Then the ambassador in Moscow, Rodders quite innocently gave a broadcast live on Russian telly explaining why Saddam Hussein could incinerate every Muscovite within ten minutes. Now he is exacting a cold revenge.
As Lord Goldsmith squirmed before the Chilcot panel today, he seemed oddly surprised to be ambushed by Sir Roderic Lyne. Referring to Goldsmith’s sudden Damascus conversion to the legality of unprovoked aggression, Lyne asked his witness:
“How do you respond to the (Guardian) report of the time that inside Number Ten on 17th March you were pinned to the wall in a pincer movement by those keen on a change of mind?”
“Absolute and utter nonsense” said the former Attorney General.
“Right” said Sir Roderic, in perhaps the best rendition of ‘don’t make me laugh’ I’ve heard in a long time.
Lyne’s low-grade nastiness virus is clearly infectious. Lawry Freedman (until today the nice cop of Chilcot) wasn’t having any of Goldman’s bizarre explanation about the mid-March change of mind on invasion legality. As a historian, he is I think adept at spotting when the plot is being spoiled by false motives.
“Well,” he asked, “What had changed during the month to make you change your mind?”
“Well,” Goldsmith echoed,”Er, that is….I decided that I’d been too cautious beforehand. And that, well, the MoD and the military wanted a straight answer.”
“And that made you change your mind?” Freedman wondered, his poker face unchanged.
This was great stuff.
There is of course no moral explanation whatsoever in the Attorney saying he was asked for a straight answer: he could very easily (and with no loss of life) have said “OK, it’d be illegal”. Funny then that his opinion turned out to be the one that everyone inside Number Ten wanted.
But having tried to lump the blame onto gung-ho Brigadiers and Sir Humphreys, Goldsmith seemed to ask for the Inquiry’s understanding about “my meetings with various Americans” during the period under the microscope. I must confess to feeling by this point that his Lordship was not so much in a moral maze as an amoral swamp.
Unfortunately (and this was quite clearly his mission) Lord Goldilocks has left the way clear for Blair to deny all this coming Friday. I have the feeling that those who balloted for tickets may yet find it a damp squib.