Labour faces split over Iraq censure motion against Blair

The Labour leadership is facing the prospect of a split on what action to take against Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq as Emily Thornberry, the new shadow foreign secretary, opposed a censure motion against the former prime minister.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he would “probably” support a contempt motion against Blair that a number of MPs, including the Scottish National party’s Alex Salmond and the senior Tory MP David Davis, were planning to request from the Speaker on Thursday.

Thornberry, a human rights lawyer, said such a move would turn parliament into a “kangaroo court” and fly in the face of established principles of justice. The accused would not be given a fair trial guaranteed under the European convention on human rights.

Speaking in a Commons debate on the findings of the Chilcot report, she said: “Chilcot has said that although the intelligence may have been flawed and although, therefore, the House was misled, he did not conclude that the House had been deliberately misled.” The point was echoed by her immediate predecessor, Hilary Benn.

Salmond said Blair should be held accountable for taking the country to war. He said: “My contention would be that Chilcot gives a huge array of evidence of a lack of parliamentary truthfulness, in that one thing was being said to the president of the United States and quite a different thing was being said to parliament and to people.”

Earlier, Thornberry told MPs that the biggest “tragedy” highlighted in the Chilcot report was the almost total lack of planning for reconstruction following the 2003 invasion.

She said: “If ever there was a mistake that should never be repeated, it is the idea that we are going into another military intervention with no idea of its consequences, no plan for the aftermath, and no long-term strategy.

“And yet, and yet, it is the exact hallmark of all the outgoing prime minister’s interventions. Again we can see the evidence in Libya. The prime minster, in the words of President Obama, became ‘distracted’.

“Once the Gaddafi regime had been overthrown and the lengthy, arduous task of postwar reconstruction was supposed to be started, it was all but ignored.

“And in the years since Libya has been riven with factionalism and violence, its experiment with democracy was brief, with the power in the hands of rival militias. And the ungoverned space that this created was an invitation to Daesh [Islamic State] to establish a strategic foothold on the Libyan coast.

“It is a stain on this government that it only began to pay any real attention to the mess it had left in Libya once that terrorist threat from Daesh became too urgent to ignore.”

She added: “The central lesson is this: you cannot bomb a country from 30,000 ft into a western-style democracy.”

Andrew Murrison, the former Conservative defence minister and navy surgeon, who voted against the Iraq invasion, told the Commons later it was not clear whether Blair had “yet been taken to account”. He said the military action against Iraq had not been a “just war”.

Dominic Grieve, chair of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, described the way intelligence was misused in the run-up to the invasion as “breathtaking”. He criticised Blair for “cherry-picking” the legal advice from his attorney general, Lord Goldsmith.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said there was no strategic or legal case for invading Iraq.

Powered by article was written by Richard Norton-Taylor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 13th July 2016 17.52 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010