DAY 3139 5th January 2010
Iraq inquiry: seats ballot for Blair
Audience seats for Tony Blair's long-awaited appearance before the Iraq inquiry will be given away by public ballot, it was announced this afternoon.
The former prime minister will, unusually, give a full day of evidence at some point in the fortnight between 25 January 25 and 5 February. The exact date will be announced when the timetable is published on the inquiry website, a week in advance.
The inquiry panel, led by Sir John Chilcot, will question Blair over two three-hour sessions at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. Tickets will be allocated separately for each section.
A third of the seats will be reserved for the families of armed forces personnel and British civilians who died or are missing in Iraq, and allocated separately.
Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot said: "There has been considerable interest from members of the public wanting to know how to get a seat for this particular hearing.
"Given the potential demand, we recognise the importance of providing people with certainty about whether or not they will be able to get into the hearings, particularly those who need to travel long distances.
"We believe the fairest way to do this is to allocate seats by ballot."
Ballot forms can be requested by post or downloaded from the inquiry's website. The closing date for applications is 15 January, and places will be drawn on 18 January.
Haw: why I won't ballot to see Blair
Brian Haw is Britain's most indefatigable anti-war campaigner. For eight and a half years he has lived in a tent in Parliament Square.
Soon the man who responsible for taking the country to war will appear in front of the Iraq Inquiry. But Haw is not interested in seeing Tony Blair.
"I think ad nauseum the world and the country has seen enough of Blair. The problem is he speaks to a certain script. He won't be asked anything he feels too uncomfortable with. It's a joke. I want to ask him questions, real questions."
Mr Haw, 60, is a divorced father of seven who has been camped outside Westminster since June 2001. He remains unmoved the former prime minister will soon be questioned about the war just across the road from his protest.
"The Inquiry is a farce, it is an exercise for the British establishment's ego" he says.
"He should be at the Hague."
by Alice Tarleton
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