LIbLink: Alistair Carmichael: Parliament can not duck responsibility for UK joining Iraq war

As we have a 13-years-too-late mea culpa (but a big boy made him do it) from John Prescott, Alistair Carmichael writes for the Times about Parliament’s role in supporting the Iraq War.

He makes the very valid point that Parliament could have given Blair a much harder time, asking for more evidence, scrutinising every claim made, but they ducked it.

Too many of those who now say, “Of course, if I had known then what I know now …” must be challenged. For the most part they could not have known then what they know now because they were not prepared to ask the questions or to demand the evidence.

Attention focuses on the actions of the prime minister and government of the day and rightly so — they failed to do what they should have done. That is, however, equally true of the Conservative opposition. Where they should have questioned, they acquiesced. Where they should have demanded evidence, they accepted assertions. As a party of the establishment, they could not allow themselves to believe that the various arms of government would be embarking on a war without a sound basis in law.

Our parliament failed us and as a result we embarked on a war that was a catastrophic error of judgment, the consequences of which shall be with us for decades to come.

He also points out the vilification meted out in the Chamber to those who did stand up against the war – notably Charles Kennedy:

Reading again the Hansard record of Charles Kennedy’s speech in the final debate on March 18, 2003, you see the repeated interventions, not least from the Speaker demanding that he be allowed to have his say. Hansard does not record the wall of sound that I remember greeting Charles when he got to his feet in these debates or, for that matter, every week at prime minister’s questions.

And he reminds of us his own prescient intervention.

I said this: “The government cannot be allowed to ignore the fact that they have not persuaded the public of the case for war. They must understand that the consequence of entering a war supported by the British government but not by the British people will be to see an acceleration of that process of disengagement between people and politics. It would be a grotesque irony if we went to war in order to bring democracy to Iraq and in so doing dealt a fatal blow to the democratic institutions of our own country.”

You can read the whole article here (£).

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  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jul '16 - 12:48pm

    I watched the end of the video of Tony Blair’s case for the 2003 Iraq invasion a few years ago and again now. John Prescott cheers loudly at the end of it, as I remembered.

    I don’t like him trying to shift his responsibility to Blair. Blair has the most responsibility, but as Alistair Carmichael says: parliament can’t duck it’s responsibility either.

  • Many of the MPs that voted for the Iraq war are still in place. Rather than focussing on Blair they should come and tell us what they have done since then to prevent this kind of thing happening again. They wont, because in the main they have done nothing.

  • Not the best person the Lib Dems could have put up to talk about politicians evading responsibility for their actions.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Jul '16 - 2:37pm

    I have probably taken more hits at John Prescott (former Labour parliamentary candidate in Southport) than most over the years, I still think he has to be given credit where it is due for facing up to and accepting the undeniable and his share of responsibility. Even David Cameron hinted at a little bit of this. Unlike ‘cheeky chappy’ Alan Johnson who we all enjoy so much as late night politics pundit alongside Michael Portillo but whose performance in the Chilcott debate struck me as being abject gut-wrenching denial – followed by John Reid, Tessa Jowell etc – an Uncle Tom Cobbley and all of Blairites. 🙁

    We should all look again at the measured performance by the late Charles Kennedy in the original Iraq debates where he was effective;y ‘monstered’ by a combination of Blairites and Tories led by Iain Duncan Smith.

    Campbell’s position I find to be equally dishonest. It is all very well saying that Parliament did not ask the questions and I am sure a number of MPs were as intellectually lazy about this decision as they are about many others (gives the lie to ‘Take Back Control!’!). But Blair’s semi-private around-the-sofa decision-making machine, unminuted and marshalled by Campbell, presented a ‘sanitised’ version of the reality which encouraged those who liked to keep their heads under the blanket to keep them there. It also kept an awful lot of Liberal Democrats from organising constituency coaches to join the 2003 march and rally where I was proud to march alongside Charles and Sarah Kennedy at the front of the Lib Dem contingent.

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