Chilcot, Brexit and the next prime minister were all up for discussion on Question Time as David Dimbleby introduced the debate show from Brighton. Joining him on the panel were Tory MP and Remain campaigner Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge), Lord Falconer (Labour peer and barrister), Baroness Sal Brinton (Libdem President), George Galloway (former MP and surprise Leave campaigner) and Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye.
Asked by the audience if the world was a better place without Saddam Hussein, most of the panel agreed it was — but that the way he was removed from power was a mistake. Speaking as a former soldier who served in the Iraq War Tom Tugendhat said: "We must learn from the mistakes in 2003 made to ensure we don't commit such blunders again, and in particular leaving our soldiers exposed to danger by poor planning and inadequate equipment." George Galloway listed the hundreds of thousands dead, the billions spent, and concluded that no, the world probably wasn't better off.
Bravely swimming against the tide, Lord Falconer — who as Galloway reminded everyone was once Blair's flatmate — said that with hindsight, the decision was wrong. Ian Hislop pointed out that hindsight wasn't needed at all — as back in 2003 many politicians, his magazine and over a million protesters all knew invading Iraq was wrong. Baroness Brinton reminded the audience that Charles Kennedy, the late Liberal Democrat leader, had consistently made the case against war.
Asked if Blair should be tried as a war criminal, Hislop said you could see in his speech following publication of the report that he was a haunted man who had left a toxic legacy. Falconer again defended his old boss, saying Blair never lied and had acted in what he thought were the best interests of the UK, George Galloway hotly disputed this version of events, as did many of the audience, and said some bereaved families are already consulting lawyers.
A debate about the Brexit vote followed, with some in the audience claiming the referendum shouldn't stand because the Leave camp had made misleading comments. Galloway— who at one point in the campaign shared a platform with Nigel Farage — pointed out that was nothing new. Brinton and Falconer, both Remainers, begrudgingly said they would accept the result.
The Conservative Party leadership race came up next, and the panel members were asked if there should be a general election when the new prime minister is chosen. Ian Hislop said it wasn't fair that 150,000 Conservative Party members got to choose the new PM. Falconer said an election should be called but not yet and Brinton said the country needed stability first. George Galloway said there should be an election in October and made a vaguely sexist remark about May and Leadsom.
Asked if Labour was in terminal decline, Falconer said no — and was laughed at from all sides; Galloway stoutly defended Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn despite being thrown out of the party. Hislop made the point that there is currently no working government and no opposition, which is bad for democracy. Finally an audience member said the next Labour leader should be George Galloway in a cat suit — a reference to his infamous Big Brother appearance. Galloway happily agreed.