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April 10, 2015

Labour grabs poll lead in UK General Election campaign

Labour grabs poll lead in UK General Election campaign

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Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Image: Department of Energy.

The approval ratings of UK Labour leader Ed Miliband rose above those of his Conservative opponent, David Cameron, for the first time in this year’s bitterly fought general election campaign. The poll results showed support for the Labour Party was also rising.

A poll by Panelbase yesterday showed Labour six points ahead; a similar survey by Survation for the Daily Mirror showed Labour four points ahead of the Conservatives. This latter poll was mixed for the Labour leader as it showed only 25% of voters were convinced Miliband was suited to the job of Prime Minister while 37% preferred David Cameron, but it also shows that people preferred Miliband’s recent conduct as party leader to Cameron’s. A poll by TNS found a three point lead for Labour.

ComRes polling indicated the eventual outcome of the election is too close to call, projecting the Conservatives with 34% of the vote and Labour 33%.

Following the poll results, the Conservative Party fired a volley of negative remarks towards Labour. Defense secretary Michael Fallon said Ed Miliband would end up signing up for “a grubby backstairs deal” with the Scottish National Party (SNP) which would lead to the cancellation or non-renewal of the Trident nuclear submarine programme. The Labour Party have stated they support the continuation of Trident and will not negotiate on Trident with the SNP.

Fallon’s comments on Trident were backed up by David Cameron.

The Labour Party counter-claimed a deal between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had put the cost of Trident renewal up by £1.4bn.

Miliband responded to Fallon’s comments: “Michael Fallon is a decent man, but today I think he has demeaned himself and he has demeaned his office. National security is too important to play politics with and I will never compromise national security.”

Former Labour leader Tony Blair said Fallon’s remarks hinted at desperation: “The Tories were up to their old tricks in their personal attack on Ed this morning. I remember the ‘demon eyes’ poster of 1997. It is always a sign of desperation and it will backfire. It shows how nervous they are of a Labour campaign full of confidence, which is showing that it understands the challenges facing working people and how to overcome them. The more they indulge in these tactics the better we should feel.”

Liberal Democrat Vince Cable expressed his displeasure at Fallon’s remarks, saying it was “an appalling way to conduct the argument”.

The two main parties have also proposed a number of new ideas for policy. Labour’s Yvette Cooper is to formally announce a new policy today to protect 10,000 police officers’ jobs by eliminating elected Police and Crime Commissioners and gun licensing subsidy, and sharing of police back-office services and procurement. The Labour crime and justice manifesto also includes creating a new commission on sexual and domestic violence, banning “legal highs“, and reforming prisons to introduce more education and work for prisoners.

Conservative Cameron pre-announced a proposal to change the rules so workers in the public sector and for companies with 250 employees or more — which between the two is estimated to be around half the work force — would be entitled to three days of paid volunteering leave per year. In prepared remarks, Cameron is to call the move represents the “clearest demonstration of the Big Society in action”. This marks a return of the language of the ‘Big Society’ which had slowly disappeared from use since the last election.



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September 13, 2014

Northern Irish politician Reverend Ian Paisley dies aged 88

Northern Irish politician Reverend Ian Paisley dies aged 88

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Ian Paisley in 2009.
Image: Scottish Government.

Reverend Ian Paisley — Lord Bannside — the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, hardline unionist politician, and Protestant preacher, died yesterday aged 88.

Paisley’s wife Eileen released a statement saying: “My beloved husband, Ian, entered his eternal rest this morning. Although ours is the grand hope of reunion, naturally as a family we are heartbroken. We loved him and he adored us, and our earthly lives are forever changed.”

Paisley helped form the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in the early 1950s, later going into politics under the banner of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Paisley’s fiery preaching was uncompromising and fundamentalist: he was once expelled from the European Parliament for calling Pope John Paul II the “anti-christ”. When Northern Ireland was debating the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Paisley led a campaign opposing the change titled “Save Ulster from Sodomy“. Politically, Paisley became known as “Dr No” for his attitude towards compromise with republicans.

This firebrand rhetoric calmed with the successful negotiation of a peace process and with Paisley entering into shared governance with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness. McGuinness paid tribute to Paisley via Twitter: “Very sad to learn that Ian Paisley has died. My deepest sympathy to his wife Eileen & family. Once political opponents – I have lost a friend.” McGuinness also said of Paisley: “I want to pay tribute to and comment on the work he did in the latter days of his political life in building agreement and leading unionism into a new accommodation with republicans and nationalists.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron described Paisley as “one of the most forceful and instantly recognisable characters in British politics for nearly half a century” and noted that Paisley’s willingness to enter into shared governance with republicans “required great courage and leadership, for which everyone in these islands should be grateful”. The current First Minister Peter Robinson said Paisley “was the founding father of the new Northern Ireland”.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said Paisley “began as the militant” but “ended as the peacemaker”. The former Irish taoiseach Bertie Ahern said of Paisley: “In my younger days I found him a very difficult character but we ended up very good friends. He was a valuable character in the peace process.”



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July 9, 2013

Mansour announces election plans for Egypt after violence and protests

Mansour announces election plans for Egypt after violence and protests

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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Egyptians in Tahrir Square celebrating the removal of President Morsi on Sunday.

Last night, Adly Mansour, the interim leader of Egypt, announced plans to reform Egypt’s constitution and hold a new round of parliamentary and presidential elections. The interim president also announced a judicial investigation into yesterday’s shooting of at least 51 supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

Mansour plans to form a panel within fifteen days to review and suggest changes to the now-suspended constitution. Those amendments would be voted on in a referendum within four months. Parliamentary elections would then be held, perhaps in early 2014, followed by presidential elections upon the forming of a new parliament.

Yesterday in Cairo, protestors supporting Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were shot outside the Presidential Guard barracks, where pro-Morsi supporters believe the former president is being kept under arrest. The Muslim Brotherhood claim 53 people died, while the health ministry claim 51 people died and 435 were injured. The Muslim Brotherhood claim the attack was unprovoked and those gathered were praying. Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali, spokesman for the army, said the group had attacked security forces and were armed with “large quantities of firearms, ammunition and Molotov cocktails”. The Muslim Brotherhood claimed children were killed in the conflict but Colonel Ali claims the photos being used by the Muslim Brotherhood are actually photos from Syria in March. Colonel Ali also stated two policemen and a soldier were killed.

One of the survivors, Mohamed Saber el-Sebaei, told journalists he was praying when the confrontation started: “Just before we finished, the shooting started. The army units that were standing in front of the Republican Guard headquarters first started shooting teargas, then live ammunition above people’s heads […] I was taking cover with another guy behind some rubble and I felt something hit my head. I held my prayer mat in my hand and I started to cover my head with it. But I couldn’t stop the bleeding because there was so much blood.”

The shooting of 51 people on Monday follows violence last week which killed 36 people in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood have asked supporters to protest non-violently and support peaceful vigils. Some within the Muslim Brotherhood movement have suggested they may be outlawed, as they were under Hosni Mubarak.

British Foreign Sectretary William Hague said: “It is crucial that there is a swift return to democratic processes in Egypt. All sides of the political spectrum should work together for the sake of the country’s political and economic future.”

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the intervention by the army was necessary to prevent “chaos”, and said the protests that led to the downfall of Morsi are due to dissatisfaction with the efficacy of government: “When governments don’t deliver, people protest. They don’t want to wait for an election.” Blair also blamed the “ideology and intolerance of the Muslim Brotherhood”: “People felt that the Brotherhood was steadily imposing its own doctrines on everyday life”. Blair advised Western governments to “engage with the new de facto power and help the new government make the changes necessary, especially on the economy, so they can deliver for the people. In that way, we can also help shape a path back to the ballot box that is designed by and for Egyptians”.



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October 18, 2012

Attorney General vetos release of Prince Charles correspondence

Attorney General vetos release of Prince Charles correspondence

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Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General for England and Wales, has vetoed a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to release correspondence sent by Prince Charles to government ministers while Tony Blair was Prime Minister from September 2004 to April 2005.

Prince Charles
Image: Dan Marsh.

The decision by the Attorney General overturns a previous decision by the Administrative Appeals Chamber which said there was a public interest in publishing the letters.

In a statement, Grieve made a case for it being in the public interest to not release the documents. He noted that the publication of the Prince’s correspondence would damage his preparation for kingship by damaging the public perception that he is “party-political neutral” by showing the Prince disagreeing with the policies of the government. Grieve then stated “[a]ny such perception would be seriously damaging to his role as future Monarch, because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the Throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is King”.

Grieve’s statement did note that the letters from Prince Charles “reflect his personal and deeply held views and convictions” and “are in many cases particularly frank” but notes there is “nothing improper in the nature or content of these letters”.

Cquote1.svg [the] decision is a serious affront to British democracy Cquote2.svg

—Graham Smith

The Freedom of Information Act request was made by Rob Evans, a journalist writing for The Guardian. The Guardian stated they intend to take the government to court to challenge Grieve’s decision.

Graham Smith from the anti-monarchist group Republic said, “[the] decision is a serious affront to British democracy”. Smith argued: “Grieve has said this is about protecting prince Charles’s impartiality, but that impartiality doesn’t exist. Charles has made that clear. This decision is about pretending Charles is impartial while he continues to lobby in favour of his own political agenda. If Grieve believes Charles to be impartial then let him prove it by allowing the release of these documents.”

Prince Charles has been criticised in the past for repeated use of his power and influence. The architect Richard Rogers claimed that the Prince, who has strongly traditionalist views on architecture, repeatedly intervened to have projects cancelled which he was working on. Rogers criticised the decision not to release Charles’ correspondence: “It is not democratic to cover up his interventions.”



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November 30, 2010

Tony Blair debates religion with Christopher Hitchens in Canada

Tony Blair debates religion with Christopher Hitchens in Canada

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photo of Blair and Hitchens at the debate.

Last Friday, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair debated the role of religion with atheist author and journalist Christopher Hitchens at the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, Canada. Organised under the auspices of the ‘Munk Debates’, the motion was: “That religion is a force for good in the world”.

Hitchens argued that religion is “a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and ordered to be well” and that the omnipresent, omniscient God supposed by many world religions was “a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea”.

Blair — who in 2008 established the Tony Blair Faith Foundation — conceded whilst religion is not necessary for everybody to act morally, it was still helpful for many despite violent interpretations of texts by extremists. He said the world religions unite in a moral mission to, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, describing “a spiritual presence, bigger, more important, more meaningful than just us alone, that has its own power separate from our power, and that even as the world’s marvels multiply, makes us kneel in humility not swagger in pride.”

Continuing, Blair stated: “If faith is seen in this way, science and religion are not incompatible, destined to fight each other, until eventually the cool reason of science extinguishes the fanatical flames of religion.”

Hitchens listed numerous aspects of religion he thought were negative, arguing “is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our scepticism? Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and to our guilt, is it good for the world? To our terror, our terror of death, is it good to appeal?”

Pressing his points, Hitchens asserted: “To preach guilt and shame about the sexual act and the sexual relationship, is this good for the world? And asking yourself all the while, are these really religious responsibilities, as I maintain they are? To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but their parents and those they love. Perhaps worst of all, to consider women an inferior creation, is that good for the world, and can you name me a religion that has not done that?”

Blair responded, “I don’t think we should think that because you can point to examples of prejudice in the name of religion, that bigotry and prejudice and wrongdoing are wholly owned subsidiaries of religion.”

Before the debate, the audience opposed the motion 57% to 22% (21% undecided). Post-debate, the motion was opposed by 68% of the audience and supported by 23%.



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February 3, 2010

Ex-minister says UK Cabinet was \”misled\” about legality of Iraq war

Ex-minister says UK Cabinet was “misled” about legality of Iraq war

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

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In this 2009 file photo, Clare Short is speaking at a rally in Birmingham.
Image: Faizan Bhat.

Clare Short, the United Kingdom’s then-Secretary of State for International Development, appeared before the Iraq Inquiry yesterday, and told the panel that the Cabinet was “misled” about the Iraq War’s legality prior to the 2003 invasion. The three-hour session was held in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London’s City of Westminster.

Short, an outspoken critic of the war, retired from the cabinet to become an independent MP two months before the invasion. She claimed to have been “conned” into staying on despite her doubts about the war and told the inquiry that the Cabinet, of which she was a part, was not a “decision-making body”, and that Parliament was simply a “rubber stamp”.

Lord Goldsmith’s decision

She also claimed that Tony Blair “and his mates” had acted “on a wing and a prayer”, having “leaned on” then-Attorney General for England and Wales Lord Peter Goldsmith, pressurising him to change his mind about the invasion. She did, however, admit that she had no evidence to support these claims. Goldsmith gave a verdict that the war would be legal only shortly before the invasion, having firmly held the belief that it would not be without a further United Nations Security Council resolution.

Short was applauded as she concluded her testimony, in which she said that she was “shocked” at how a definitive statement about the legality of the war circulated only as late as March 17, 2003 — just three days before the invasion began — that this state of shock led her to be “jeered at” by other ministers. Said statement, according to Short, contained no hint that Goldsmith had previously had any doubts whatsoever.

She said any discussion of legality was stopped at the same pre-war cabinet meeting. She accused Blair of standing in the way of such discussion, and said, “Everything that’s happened since makes me know that there was deliberate blockage and there were also all sorts of secret, private meetings”, and that normal cabinet communications were “closed down” as the invasion approached. “There was never a meeting that said ‘what’s the problem, what are we trying to achieve, what are our military, diplomatic options?’ We never had that coherent discussion … never.”

Cquote1.svg I think [Goldsmith] misled the cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through Cquote2.svg

—Clare Short

Goldsmith responded to her inquiries about the lateness of this statement by saying “it takes me a long time to make my mind up”, and that he had made his decision after consulting foreign legal professionals. She said that Goldsmith’s “doubts and his changes of opinion” made her “think for the attorney general to come and say there’s unequivocal legal authority to go war was misleading.” She said that “I think he misled the cabinet. He certainly misled me, but people let it through”.

Cquote1.svg [I]f we got a Palestinian state and a UN lead on reconstruction, that will be much better Cquote2.svg

—Clare Short

She claimed that the government, having failed to secure a required UN resolution, started the “untrue” rumour that France had vetoed it. She said that she “believed them at the time. You don’t want to disbelieve your Prime Minister in the run-up to war and you want to believe the leader of your party. You want to be loyal”.

UN involvement

When asked why she had not resigned earlier than she did, she said that she “was conned” by Blair’s promises of a strong role for the UN in the reconstruction of Iraq, as well as more attempts to resolve the conflict about Israel. She said that she “thought that if we got a Palestinian state and a UN lead on reconstruction, that will be much better … I took a lot of flak for it. I still think, if we had done those things, it would have been a heck of a lot better.” She says that this lack of UN involvement in the post-invasion reconstruction effort was her main reason for retiring from the government.

Short said that she “was seeing the intelligence” about Iraq at the earlier stages of preparation for an invasion, but that in late 2002 “asked for a briefing… This just didn’t come and didn’t come… it became clear there was some sort of block on communications.” Apparently, the intelligence reports she say said that “Saddam Hussein didn’t have nuclear [weapons] … [he] would if he could but he was nowhere near it. It wasn’t saying there was some new imminent threat”.

Tony Blair, 9/11, and post-war planning

Short asserted Blair’s evidence, given to the inquiry on Friday, was “historically inaccurate”, since “[t]here was no evidence of any kind of an escalation of threats” after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. This is contrary to Blair’s claims that attitudes towards the threat Iraq posed “changed dramatically” after the attacks, and that Saddam Hussein “threatened not just the region but the world”.

Cquote1.svg We could have gone more slowly and carefully and not have had a totally destabilised and angry Iraq Cquote2.svg

—Clare Short

She said, “We could have gone more slowly and carefully and not have had a totally destabilised and angry Iraq. The American people were misled to suggest that al-Qaeda had links to Saddam Hussein. Everybody knows that is untrue – that he had absolutely no links, no sympathy, al-Qaeda were nowhere near Iraq until after the invasion and the disorder that came from that.” Short criticised the military for not meeting the obligations laid out for them, as an occupying force, by the Geneva Convention.

Background and response

Lord Boyce, the former head of the British armed forces, said in an earlier hearing that officials from the Department for International Development — Short’s department — let their opposition to the war prevent them from cooperating fully with the rest of the government immediately after the invasion. Alistair Campbell, Blair’s former spokesman, said that Short had been “difficult to handle” in the run-up to the invasion, and that there was fear that she may leak pieces of information that she did not agree with. Lord Andrew Turnbull, former Secretary of the Cabinet, however, said that these concerns were unfair, and that minority voices had been unfairly pushed to the sidelines.

Hilary Benn, who took over Short’s post after her resignation, is scheduled to give evidence before the inquiry today.



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  • “UK cabinet minister Jack Straw ignored advice that Iraq invasion was illegal” — Wikinews, January 27, 2010

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January 29, 2010

Tony Blair tells Iraq Inquiry he would invade again

Tony Blair tells Iraq Inquiry he would invade again

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Friday, January 29, 2010

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2007 file photo of Tony Blair.
Image: Gryffindor.

Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, appeared before the Iraq Inquiry today. He faced six hours of questioning, starting at 6:30 am, at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London concerning his role in the 2003 Iraq invasion. During the inquiry, Blair stood by his decision to invade, saying he would make the same decision again.

This is the third time Blair has given evidence at an inquiry into the Iraq War, having already testified before the Hutton Inquiry and the Butler Review, as well as participating in an investigation by the Intelligence and Security Committee. The Hutton Inquiry found that the government did not “sex up” the dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The Butler Review uncovered “serious flaws” in pre-war intelligence, and this inquiry was set up by current prime minister Gordon Brown in order to “learn the lessons” of the war. Sir John Chilcott, the inquiry chairman, began by stressing that Blair was not “on trial”, but could be called back to give further evidence if necessary.

At the end of the session, Chilcott asked Blair if he had any regrets, to which Blair replied that he was “sorry” that it was “divisive”, but said that invading was the right thing to do since he believes “the world is a safer place as a result.” Blair said that the inquiry should ask the “2010 question”, which refers to the hypothetical position that the world would be in if Saddam Hussein were not removed from power. He said that “today we would have a situation where Iraq was competing with Iran […] in respect of support of terrorist groups”.

Reasons for invasion

At the inquiry, the topics on which Blair was questioned included his reasons for invading Iraq.

At the time, he said that his reasons were based on a need to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction; however, interviews held later suggest that removing Saddam Hussein from power was his primary objective. Blair denies this, asserting that the need to dispose of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was the only reason for the United Kingdom’s participation in the invasion. He explained that, in an interview with Fern Britton, he “did not use the words regime change”, and, what he was trying to say was, “you would not describe the nature of the threat in the same way if you knew then what you knew now, that the intelligence on WMD had been shown to be wrong”.

He said, despite no weapons of mass destruction being found by UN weapons inspectors, he still believes that Saddam Hussein had the means to develop and deploy them; “[h]e had used them, he definitely had them […] and so in a sense it would have required quite strong evidence the other way to be doubting the fact that he had this programme […] The primary consideration for me was to send an absolutely powerful, clear and unremitting message that after September 11 if you were a regime engaged in WMD [weapons of mass destruction], you had to stop.”

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He also said that weapons of mass destruction and regime change were not separate issues, but “conjoined”, since “brutal and oppressive” regimes with such weapons are a “bigger threat” than less hostile nations with the same weapons. He said that Hussein’s regime was hiding important information from UN weapons inspectors, and had “no intention” of complying with them. He asserted that he has “no regrets” about removing Hussein, “[a] monster and I believe he threatened not just the region but the world.”

There were also questions about why the UN weapons inspectors were not given more time in Iraq in March 2003. Blair responded by saying that it would have made very little difference, as Iraq had the knowledge and “intent” to rebuild its weapons program from scratch if it were dismantled. He was also asked whether he still believed that the war was morally justified. He said that he did. He also said that the war was required because more diplomatic solutions had already failed, and the “containment” of Hussein’s regime through diplomatic sanctions was “eroding” when the decision to invade was made.

Cquote1.svg I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us. Cquote2.svg

—Tony Blair

He also said that attitudes towards Saddam Hussein and the threat he presented “changed dramatically” after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. He said, “I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us.” He said that he believed terrorists would use biological and chemical weaponry, and also said, “if those people inspired by this religious fanaticism could have killed 30,000 they would have. My view was you could not take risks with this issue at all.”

He later said, “When I talked earlier about the calculus of risk changing after September 11 it’s really important I think to understand in so far as to understanding the decision I took, and frankly would take again. If there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him. That was my view then. It’s my view now.”

Crawford commitment

He was also asked about his supposed commitment to George W. Bush that United Kingdom would join the United States in an Iraq war, which he is said to have made at Bush’s Crawford ranch in 2002. Blair stubbornly denied that this took place, saying that what was said is that Saddam Hussein had to be “dealt with”, and that “the method of doing that is open”. Instead, he says, his reasons for the invasion were moral.

Cquote1.svg The decision I had to take was … could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programme? Cquote2.svg

—Tony Blair

He also said, “This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It’s a decision. And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take?”

He said of Bush: “I think what he took from that [the meeting] was exactly what he should have taken, which was if it came to military action because there was no way of dealing with this diplomatically, we would be with him.” He did admit, however, that—a year later, as the invasion approached—he had been offered a “way out” of the war, which he declined. He said of this, “I think President Bush at one point said, before the House of Commons debate, ‘Look if it’s too difficult for Britain, we understand’. I took the view very strongly then—and do now—that it was right for us to be with America, since we believed in this too.”

The 45-minute claim

Another line of questioning focused on his 45-minute claim, which was included in the September 2002 dossier but redacted after the war. It states that Hussein was able to deploy nuclear weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order. This dossier also contained the words, “the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons”. However, the inquiry has revealed that there were certain caveats involved, so the claim was not—anti-war campaigners claim—”beyond doubt”, especially since senior civil servants have told the inquiry that intelligence suggested that Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been dismantled.

Blair said that it “would have been better if (newspaper) headlines about the ’45-minute claim’ had been corrected” to state—as he admits he should have made clear—that the claim referred to battlefield munitions, rather than to missiles. He says that, with the benefit of hindsight, he would have liked to have published the intelligence reports themselves, since they were “absolutely strong enough”. He did insist, however, that the intelligence that was available at the time put it “beyond doubt” that Iraq was continuing to develop weaponry. He added that “things obviously look quite different” after the war, since weapons of mass destruction were not found.

Legality and planning

File photo of Lord Goldsmith, who told the inquiry earlier this week that he changed his mind about the legality of the war.
Image: Johnnyryan1.

One of the main topics was the legality of the war. Earlier this week, a senior Foreign Office legal advisor claimed that the war would be illegal without a further United Nations Security Council resolution—which was not obtained. The attorney general at the time, Lord Peter Goldsmith, said that the cabinet refused to enter into a debate over the legality of the war, and that Blair had not received his advice that a further UN resolution would be needed warmly. He insists that he “desperately” tried to find a diplomatic solution to the problem until France and Russia “changed their position” and would not allow the passage of a further resolution.

Blair also said that he would not have invaded had Goldsmith said that it “could not be justified legally”, and explained Goldsmith’s change of mind by saying that the then attorney general “had to come to a conclusion”, and his conclusion was that the war was legal. He did not know why Goldsmith made this conclusion, but said he believes that it may be due to the fact that weapons inspectors “indicated that Saddam Hussein had not taken a final opportunity to comply” with the UN.

Questions were also asked on the government’s poor post-war planning, and claimed confusion about whether the US had a plan for Iraq after the war was over. Blair was drilled about the lack of priority that was given to the issue of post-war planning. He was also asked about the lack of equipment that British soldiers were given. This line of questioning was pursued in front of the families of some of the soldiers who died in Iraq—many of whom blame the poor equipment for the deaths of their relatives.

Response

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The families of some of the 179 British soldiers killed in the Iraq war, along with around 200 anti-war protesters, held a demonstration calling for Blair to be declared a war criminal outside the centre in London’s City of Westminster. They chanted “Tony Blair, war criminal” as the former prime minister gave evidence inside. Blair was jeered by a member of the audience as he made his closing statement, and the families booed him, chanting “you are a liar” and “you are a murderer” as he left the centre.

In order to avoid the protesters, he arrived early and was escorted by security as he entered through the back door, with large numbers of police officers standing by. One of these protesters, Iraqi Saba Jaiwad, said, “The Iraqi people are having to live every day with aggression, division, and atrocities. Blair should not be here giving his excuses for the illegal war, he should be taken to The Hague to face criminal charges because he has committed crimes against the Iraqi people.”

Ahmed Rushdi, an Iraqi journalist, said that he was unsurprised by Blair’s defence of the invasion, because, “A liar is still a liar”. He also claimed that the war had done more harm than good, because, “Before 2003 there were problems with security, infrastructure and services, and people died because of the sanctions, but after 2003 there are major disasters. Major blasts have killed about 2,000 people up till now. After six years or seven years there is no success on the ground, in any aspect.”

Cquote1.svg Why did we participate in an illegal invasion of another country? Cquote2.svg

—Nick Clegg

Current prime minister Gordon Brown, who set up the inquiry, said before Blair’s appearance that it was not a cause for concern. Anthony Seldon, Blair’s biographer, called the session “a pivotal day for him [Blair], for the British public and for Britain’s moral authority in the world”. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who opposes the war, said in Friday’s Daily Telegraph that it was “a pivotal moment in answering a question millions of British people are still asking themselves: Why did we participate in an illegal invasion of another country?” He called the invasion “subservience-by-default to the White House”, and questioned the “special relationship” between between the United Kingdom and the United States.

Vincent Moss, the political editor of the Sunday Mirror newspaper, criticised the inquiry for being too soft on Blair. He said, “A lot of ground wasn’t covered, and in my mind it wasn’t covered in enough detail, particularly the dodgy dossier in September 2002. There wasn’t very much interrogation on that, they pretty much accepted what Tony Blair said about the intelligence. We could have had an awful lot stronger questioning on that”.

It is feared by some senior Labour Party politicians that today’s events could ignite strong feelings about the issue in voters, and thereby damage the popularity of the party, which is already trailing behind the Conservative Party with a general election required in the first half of the year.


Related news

  • “UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war” — Wikinews, January 27, 2010
  • “UK cabinet minister Jack Straw ignored advice that Iraq invasion was illegal” — Wikinews, January 26, 2010

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January 27, 2010

UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war

UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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Lord Peter Goldsmith, the Attorney General for England and Wales before and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has told the Iraq Inquiry that he changed his mind about the legality of the invasion about one month before military action began.

During his six hour session of questioning, Goldsmith said that he changed his mind about whether a further United Nations resolution was needed to ensure that the invasion was legal. His testimony comes only a day after former foreign office legal advisor Michael Wood told the inquiry that his own advice, that a further resolution was required, was ignored in favour of Goldsmith’s. Goldsmith’s account was under scrutiny because he had consistently said that it would be “safer” if a further resolution were obtained—since it would have put the “matter beyond doubt and nobody could have challenged the legality”—before changing his mind and giving the “green light” only a month before the invasion. He said that he had “good reasons” for “ultimately reach[ing] a different view”, and called his previous advice “too cautious”. He based his support of the war’s legality on a series of UN resolutions dating back to the end of the Gulf War.

Until February 2002, he believed that a new resolution would be required, but he said today that—after discussions with US and UK diplomats—he realised that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 “revive[d]” the authority of the United Kingdom to use force, as outlined in previous resolutions. One of these was United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, which was passed in November 1990. It authorized “Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait … to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area” against Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to give up his weapons of mass destruction. However, there has been debate about whether “all means necessary” included military force.

Cquote1.svg The prime minister made it clear that he accepted that it was for me to reach a judgement and he had to accept it. Cquote2.svg

—Peter Goldsmith

He admitted that he had told then prime minister Tony Blair, as far back as 2002, that any justification for war other than a UN resolution (such as regime change or self defence) would be invalid. Goldsmith said, “I don’t think it [the advice] was terribly welcome.” However, he added, “The prime minister made it clear that he accepted that it was for me to reach a judgement and he had to accept it.” Goldsmith agreed that he ignored the advice of other legal advisors, including Michael Wood (who spoke before the inquiry yesterday) and Elizabeth Wilmshurst (who resigned in protest days before the invasion), who both said that invading Iraq without a new UN resolution would amount to the “crime of aggression”. Goldsmith claimed to have “paid great attention to what their views were,” but added, “Ultimately I disagreed with the views they took.”

He said that an “unequivocal” opinion was needed before the invasion, and that this was what he gave in March, having been unsure about the war’s legality previously. He denied changing his mind only days before the invasion, as some have claimed, saying that he had advised the government that the war would be legal as far back as February, and that his advice was “consistent”. He also called claims that he was pressured into changing his opinion “nonsense”. He said that he “was ready to answer questions” and intended to debate the issue with the cabinet, but was told that they would read his advice before moving on to different issues. He said that the debate did not in fact take place – he told the inquiry that he believes cabinet ministers considered it to be “a slightly sterile exercise”.

In his testimony, Goldsmith also criticised Jack Straw’s response to Wood’s advice, saying that, while ministers could “challenge” legal advice, Straw “appeared to be rebuking a senior legal adviser for expressing his own legal view” in a recently declassified letter. He was also concerned that the cabinet ignored, or was unaware of, the caveats included in his March advice on the war’s legality, in which he said that “the safest legal course” would be to get a new resolution, despite a “reasonable case” being available based on existing resolutions. His advice warned the government that he was not “confident” that the case based on existing resolutions would stand up in court. Goldsmith also requested the declassification of documents relating to the war’s legal status, which are available to the Iraq inquiry, but not to the public. Sir John Chilcot, the chair of the inquiry, said that Goldsmith’s “frustration is shared.”


Related news

  • “UK cabinet minister Jack Straw ignored advice that Iraq invasion was illegal” — Wikinews, January 26, 2010

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November 19, 2009

Herman Van Rompuy named as first permanent EU President

Herman Van Rompuy named as first permanent EU President

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

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File photo of Herman Van Rompuy.
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File photograph of Baroness Catherine Ashton, who was chosen as the first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Image: World Economic Forum.

Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy has been chosen as the first permanent President of the European Council, at a meeting of European Union leaders today in Brussels.

Baroness Catherine Ashton of the United Kingdom has been selected as the first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The positions are both newly created by the Lisbon Treaty.

Following a week of negotiations, Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was attempting to find a compromise among the leaders of the EU’s 27 member states, after division over candidates had previously failed to result in a unanimous decision. Van Rompuy’s selection finally took place today, and fairly quickly, over a dinner meeting among European leaders.

“I did not seek this high position, I didn’t make any steps to achieve it, but from tonight I take on this task with conviction and enthusiasm,” Van Rompuy said at a news conference after being chosen.

“Europe must be in every member state’s advantage,” he continued. “This cardinal principle leds me to a two-track approach. First of all, I will consider everyone’s interests and sensitivities. Even if our unity is our strength, our diversity remains our wealth. Every country has its own history, its own culture, its own way of doing things. Our journey may be toward a common destination, but we will all bring along different luggage.”

He also promised to ensure that every country in the EU will emerge victorious from any decision taken. He is to officially become the EU president on January 1 of next year.

Initially, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair was a popular candidate for President. However, the relatively unknown Van Rompuy, apparently backed by France and Germany emerged as a compromise. Germany had denied backing Van Rompuy, despite its ambassador to Belgium saying to the De Morgen newspaper that “The German government is in favour of Prime Minister Van Rompuy, and if his candidacy fails it will not be because of Berlin.”



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December 22, 2007

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair converts to Catholicism

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tony Blair in June 2007 at Heiligendamm, during the 33rd G8 summit.
Image: Gryffindor.

Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has left the Church of England and joined the Roman Catholic Church.

Blair, currently the special envoy for Quartet on the Middle East, has long been attending mass with his wife and four children, who are all Catholic. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor received Blair into full communion with the Catholic Church during Mass at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, on Friday.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said, “I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church … For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion … My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, senior archbishop of the Church of England said, “Tony Blair has my prayers and good wishes as he takes this step in his Christian pilgrimage.”

Ann Widdecombe, of the Conservative Party, was more cautious. “If you look at Tony Blair’s voting record in the House of Commons, he’s gone against Church teaching on more than one occasion. On things, for example, like abortion,” she said. “My question would be, ‘has he changed his mind on that?'”

Tony Blair, who has yet to release any official comments, said in a BBC documentary last month: “You know you can’t have a religious faith and it be an insignificant aspect because it’s, it’s profound about you and about you as a human being.” He also said that he had avoided discussing his religious views out of fear of being called “a nutter.”



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