Socialist Worker

Cowardly Labour MPs vote to protect Tony Blair over the war in Iraq

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2533

Part of the two million-strong protest against war in Iraq in London on 15 February 2003

Part of the two million-strong protest against war in Iraq in London on 15 February 2003 (Pic: Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk)


Tory and Labour MPs united last week to stop any further investigation into Tony Blair’s war crimes in Iraq.

At the end of the parliamentary debate just five Labour MPs voted for a motion to hold Blair to account—and 158 voted to protect him.

More Tories voted for the motion than Labour MPs. It was defeated by 439 votes to 70.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) proposed the motion.

It noted that the Chilcot Report into the war had “provided substantial evidence of misleading information being presented by the then prime minister and others” in the run-up to the war.

It said there was a stark contrast between “private correspondence to the United States government and public statements to parliament and to the people”.

It called for an investigation into the “contrast in public and private policy and of the presentation of intelligence”.

Labour MPs rushed to defend Blair. Even a number who had voted against the Iraq war insisted that Blair had acted in “good faith”.

Labour’s Clive Efford said, “I voted against the war but I did not for one minute think that Tony Blair lied to this House, or attempted to mislead me.”

Phil Wilson succeeded Blair as MP for Sedgefield.

“When I am called a Blairite, which is sometimes seen as a term of abuse, I wear that term proudly as an accolade,” he said.

Absolved

Labour’s David Hanson said Chilcot had absolved Blair from any “decision to deceive parliament or the public”.

The SNP’s Alex Salmond retorted that the next paragraph in the report said that Blair’s speeches were “an exercise in advocacy, not in sharing a crucial judgment”.

Earlier a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party had insisted that there should be a three-line whip against the motion.

This meant there would be heavy pressure on MPs to attend and vote. The shadow cabinet was also reported to have opposed the SNP motion.

In the end there was only a one-line whip, meaning that attendance was not regarded as crucial.

One of the few Labour voices against Blair came from Paul Flynn. He said that MPs who had doubts about the war were “bribed, bullied or bamboozled into voting the wrong way”.

Green MP Caroline Lucas said there were clear indications that Blair had been “fixing the evidence around the policy to go to war”.

One notable absentee from the debate was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In July Corbyn had rightly said, “We now know that the House was misled in the run-up to the war.

“All those who took the decisions laid bare in the Chilcot Report must face up to the consequences of their actions.”

But he missed last week’s vote because he was “committed elsewhere”.


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