`Comical' Straw and Gorman not funny

BLUSTER as much as they like, Government ministers cannot shift the belief of the majority of the British public that we took military action against Iraq on the spurious supposition that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

BLUSTER as much as they like, Government ministers cannot shift the belief of the majority of the British public that we took military action against Iraq on the spurious supposition that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Fifteen years' ago Saddam did, using them to devastating effect against Iran and the Marsh Arabs. But it now appears that, as much as he wanted to, he did not have the capacity to develop them after the end of the Gulf War.

"I accept from a personal point of view that it is certainly disappointing that the inspectors, including those of the Iraq Survey Group, have not so far educed further evidence," Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Monday.

Over the weekend, David Kay resigned as head of the ISG, saying he does not believe Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction existed. His replacement, Charles Duelfer, a former United Nations inspector, has previously expressed doubts about their existence.


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Lord Hutton today publishes his report on the circumstances surrounding the death of scientist David Kelly. Crucially, his remit did not include the ability to judge the Government's truthfulness in taking us to war.

But Mr Straw insists the decision the House of Commons made on March 18 to take military action "was justified then in terms of enforcing international law and is still more justified now. If you look in Iraq what you see there is a country that has really been liberated from a terrible tyranny."

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He claims MPs voted on the threat Iraq's weapons posed to international peace and security. "We were never saying that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United Kingdom."

And as political life enters its most crucial phase since 1997, it's been left to former Billericay Tory MP Teresa Gorman to bring it down to the level of the absurd.

In a speech to a UK Independence Party meeting in Bedford, she denounced the European Union as a "drunken, corrupt bureaucracy." She carried on: "It's only fig-leaf of respectability is that it stops the Germans from entering yet another bloodbath with the French."

I don't know who's the bigger comedian – Jack Straw or Mrs Gorman.

I MENTIONED some weeks ago the battle to become Labour candidate for Peterborough. Happily for sitting MP Helen Clark, she survived a full re-selection process, winning the backing of her constituency party on the second ballot by 51 votes to 42.

Her victory is a huge blow to would-be Labour MPs, including a raft of councillors and other party faithful throughout the region, who must now face up to the probability that no other winnable seat will become vacant in the East of England in time for the next election.

And under the undeclared ageist bias operated by Labour selection committees, anyone who's now around 40 will have no chance of getting a seat for the following election, which could be as late as June 2011. Glum faces all round.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring safe Conservative seat of Cambridgeshire North-West, the Tories have chosen their successor to the retiring Sir Brian Mawhinney – he's Shailesh Vara, a vice-chairman of the party and one of its most senior minority ethnic personalities.

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