Wednesday 21 February 2007

Troop Withdrawal From Iraq: Welcome but too little, too late and we need an exit strategy.

Yesterday the British Pensioner Trade Union Action Committee organised a tremendous John4Leader rally in Birmingham with about 150 pensioners supporting our campaign. When I got back the Press Association contacted me about the leak from Number 10 to the Sun that the Prime Minister was to announce today that some British troops are to be withdrawn from Iraq.

My reaction was that whilst I welcome any withdrawal of troops this was too little, too late and that what was needed was for the Prime Minister to bring forward an exit strategy, appealing to the rest of the world to assist Britain achieve total withdrawal of it forces. Any role for Britain in Iraq in the future can only be humanitarian, supplying doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers and human rights advisers rather than soldiers.

It was good to get the chance to comment. Although our campaign has worked hard professionally and very creatively to get our message across in the national media it is obvious to anyone with any experience that we are strugglibg to breakthrough what some have described as a virtual news blackout. The lack of coverage is not for want of trying or from any lack of professional expertise in our approach. Also we shouldn't allow ourselves to sound paranoid. But the reality is that we are swimming against the tide and we just have to try even harder.

That is why it was good getting coverage in today's Guardian survey of leadership candidates on their attitiudes to the war in Iraq.

Try and get a copy to read. You couldn't find a clearer example of the difference between not just what we are saying in policy terms but also the complete straightforwardness and lack of evasion in explaining our policy positions in contrast with the performance of the other candidates.

Let's keep plugging away to get the coverage we deserve. If you can, start banging in those letters to the papers on our campaign and to the various radio and tv programmes calling for coverage of our campaign and fair access for representatives from our campaign to invitations onto programmes.

At times I am beginning to feel like a cult movie which is recognised and appreciated by anyone that has access to it but whom many have only distantly heard of rather than actually seen. Let's turn that round.