The Conservative leader Michael Howard has followed the Lib Dems and withdrawn his party's support
for the Butler inquiry into Britain's WMD intelligence that lead to the Iraq war.
Howard withdrew support on the grounds that the inquiry was limiting itself to investigating only the structures and systems of the intelligence apparatus.
The Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy refused to back the inquiry when it was first announced last month on similar grounds. Something I thought at the time rather risky as it looked as if the Tories would go along and as the smallest of the three major parties the Lib Dems would have been even further marginalized by not participating. But with Howard's surprise announcement Kennedy has gotten lucky and even looks rather prescient.
Thus Howard must endure a somewhat embarrasing climbdown, after decrying the inquiry he had a hand in forming. The Tories are now taking hits from both the government for backing out, and the Lib Dems for coming late to the party. The Blairites do worse, now left with an inquiry boycotted by both the left and right leaning opposition parties for having too narrow a scope. Only the Lib Dems come out well from this, having been saved from irrelevance by Howard, but also appearing principled and ahead of the curve.
Now if only the Democrats would follow suit and declare the US committee a similarly paltry excuse for an investigation.