Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When is our government going to admit the obvious about Iraq?

Bad decision by the government not to release the minutes of the Cabinet discussions about Iraq.

It's not that the publication of the minutes is going to change anyone's mind - there's not going to be anything in them so earth-shattering that will change the minds of supporters or opponents (if there was then it would have been leaked by now). And they are now a historical period piece - it will be many, many years before another British government is confronted with the choice about whether to follow the lead of a far right, incompetent American President in waging war against a fascist dictator.

But it's a sign of how, in fact, the government isn't prepared to take tough decisions which might actually impress undecided voters. The official line of the Labour government about Iraq - 'it was the right thing to do but can we please talk about something, anything else' - is out of step with the vast majority of people in Britain. What today's decision does is to help push people who might vote Labour and who certainly don't want a Tory government into voting for one of the minor parties or not going to vote at all.

On a related note, if David Miliband wants to be the next leader of the Labour Party, and if he wants to do the right thing in terms of helping to rebuild the Labour Party, now or soon (maybe the 6th anniversary) would be a good time to make a speech which sets out the obvious - that the decision to back Bush in 2003 was a disastrous error - and sets out the lessons learned to make sure that nothing like that would happen in the future under a Labour government.

It would cause a brief flurry of excitement amongst journalists, but the longer term consequences would be all positive. All the policies pandering to right-wing newspapers in the world won't help to put the coalition of support which Labour had in 1997 and 2001 back together. What smashed the New Labour coalition more than any other single event was when people voted Labour because they wanted a fairer Britain, and instead discovered that their support had been used for an invasion of another country which went wrong in just about every way imaginable.

Instead of cutting cozy establishment deals with the Tories to save the blushes of ministers, it's in Labour's interest to state the obvious about Iraq, apologise and explain how Labour has learned the lessons. This would help to make an important point. The Tories, after all, backed the war on Iraq, most of them still think it was the right thing to do, and if a right-wing American President wanted their help for something similar in the future, they'd give it gladly.

2 Comments:

At 3:39 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the answer to your question is "Never".

From the very beginning, the justifications for the invasion of Iraq have been weak and contradictory. When one justification has fallen down another one has taken its place, even if it makes even less sense and is contradictory to the previous argument. A talking point at present in the Labour Party seems to be that "we would have gone to war anyway at some time with Iraq": this is a ridiculous argument but, within the Labour Party anyway, few people challenge it. If an MI6 document emerges that says there was never a chance of going to war with Iraq, they will simply move on to a new argument and pretend that the old one never existed.

I've felt from the beginning of 2002 that this was a case of our political class thumbing their noses at us; they're saying that they can get away with outrageous things on very thin justifications, and there's nothing that the public can do about it.

Guano

 
At 11:22 pm , Anonymous Daniel Blaney said...

You'll be waiting a long time for Milliband to say that. One of the less reported aspects of the awful, now infamous, Guardian article last summer pitching for the leadership, was that he wrote this:

"To get our message across, we must be more humble about our shortcomings but more compelling about our achievements.

With hindsight... we needed better planning for how to win the peace in Iraq, not just win the war."

So basically the invasion itself was good, and implicitly Milliband states the party needs to be more compelling on that point....????

Talk about five steps back from the Harman position acknowledging the "anger and division caused by Iraq" which, in part, won her the deputy leadership.

It was after reading those sentences of his Guardian article that I decided he was bottom of my list as potential successors to Gordon Brown.

 

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