Wednesday 24 January 2007

The Iraq Debate: The Prime Minister couldn't even bother to turn up.

The House of Commons debated Iraq today for the first time in Government time for two years.

You would have expected that the issue of Iraq was so critical that Parliament would have received a report on the progress of the US/UK strategy from the Prime Minister and MPs would have been allowed to vote on Britain's role in the future.

No chance! The Prime Minister refused to even attend the debate and the Government refused to allow a vote on its strategy.

Instead, Mr Blair attended a meeting with representatives from big business and, although MPs tried to engineer a procedural vote, the manoeuvring of Government whips made this impossible.

Apart from me not a single candidate for either leader or deputy leader of the Labour party condemned this display of contempt for Parliament or made any public statement today on the need for a change of strategy.

Virtually every week now at the beginning of Prime Minister's questions, the Prime Minister and MPs offer their condolences to the family of yet another British soldier, who has lost his life in Iraq.

Surely the continuing loss of lives on such a large scale amongst Iraqi civilians and both British and US servicemen and women warrants the Prime Minister accounting to Parliament for his actions.

In addition, there is now even greater confusion about what strategy the Government is pursuing as the Prime Minister hints at the withdrawal of some British troops later this year and yet the Bush administration has indicated that it would expect the scale of the British presence to be maintained.

What is increasingly apparent to both MPs and the general public is that there is no realistic British strategy to extricate ourselves from the nightmare that is Iraq and that the US strategy of pouring in more troops holds out no prospect of success and is more likely to replicate Vietnam.

It is even more imperative now for us to step up the "Stop the War" campaign on the broadest front to demand withdrawal. The longer the delay for withdrawal the greater will be the loss of life and human suffering.