AN MP who served with the armed forces in Iraq has branded the Chilcot report “mild” and claimed it will fail to give the families affected by the war closure.

Conservative Sir Desmond Swayne, who represents New Forest West, was deployed during the conflict as a Territorial Army major and told the Echo he was surprised at the extent the inquiry “hedged its bets”.

Dorset Beaches:

“I suspect that after all the build-up, the reaction is going to be one of relative surprise at how mild the report is,” he said.

“There are bits of it that are strong but in terms of the legality of the war – he has not addressed that.

“He has criticised processes and that sort of thing but he has not addressed what the families and what those opposed to the war in the first place have been asking.

"The whole notion of this being an illegal war is what people will have been waiting for, some sort of closure, and they’ve not got it.

“I am sure that there is plenty of detail in there that we really need to learn lessons from and take account of.

“But in terms of addressing the headline demand – whether it is legal and whether Tony Blair should be held to account in some way – it’s not going to do anything for that.”

Asked by the Echo if he felt he had been deceived by the evidence presented prior to the invasion, Sir Desmond, who voted in favour of military action, said: “Were we deceived or did we exercise insufficient judgement? I suspect it is more the latter.

“We allowed ourselves to be deceived.

"I regard it as one of the huge mistakes of foreign policy that we allowed ourselves to believe there were weapons of mass destruction and we needed to act – and clearly there weren’t any.”

He said that the planning before the war had been a “shambles”, and added: “I just remember this bizarre discussion at the divisional headquarters when I was in Iraq serving in August 2003 about whether we should be much more proactive and heavy-handed with the militias.

"And we decided, well actually we can’t because we haven’t got the resources.

"It was badly planned.”

Liberal Democrat Annette Brooke, who represented Mid Dorset and North Poole between 2001 and 2015, was the only MP in the county who voted against military action.

Dorset Beaches:

She told the Echo her thoughts are with the many thousands of civilians and servicemen who died in the war and as a result of the subsequent instability in the region.

“It was such flawed decision-making and the consequences have just been so awful,” she said, claiming her party had felt “powerless” as they attempted to resist Tony Blair “from just ploughing on regardless”.

“It is incredible how accurately Charles Kennedy (the former Lib Dem leader) predicted what was going to happen, and yet what was he getting?

"The most horrible, horrible press and in parliament there was a low chant of ‘Chamberlain Charlie’ while he was speaking.

“It was appalling pressure and what it highlighted for me was the importance of listening to one another.”

Asked if the Iraq inquiry closed matters, she replied: “I think it just brings an even greater sense of sadness. I think it outlines the responsibility that politicians and politics has in this world, that every time you take a vote – and I regret some of the votes I’ve taken and you can never get it entirely right – you have to give it your all.

“But you are reliant on the information being supplied to you.

"We always questioned the weapons of mass destruction. We had Hans Blix (the UN weapons inspector) actually talk to us as a group, which strengthened our resolve to keep our position.

“Bear in mind that we really had people bearing down on us saying we were letting our troops down.

"That was never the case – the Liberal Democrats are very, very supportive of our armed forces – we just did not think that the conditions had been met for such a momentous decision.”

Former Army captain Tobias Ellwood, who has been MP for Bournemouth East since 2005, said he had always been opposed to the decision to go to war.

Dorset Beaches:

“The intelligence used for justification was questionable along with Tony Blair’s intentions,” said the junior foreign office minister, whose brother Jonathan was killed in the 2002 Bali bombing.

“It important that we have learned from that and that processes are in place to ensure they are not repeated – most importantly the creation of the National Security Council which ensures the grave matters of sending troops to war is thoroughly and professionally discussed."

Asked whether the report would help those affected achieve closure, Mr Ellwood said: “You are never going to have closure unfortunately for those who have been affected.

"It will be for individuals to comment. But aside from the time it has taken, I think the report will be welcomed.”

Christchurch MP Chris Chope told the Echo the Iraq war had “contributed to a breakdown of trust in politics” and criticised the “bad errors of judgment” made in the lead up to it.

Dorset Beaches:

“Tony Blair was thinking too much about his own legacy and not enough about the national interest,” he said.