Tories gave Tony his little war

AS a smug Tony Blair and his baying pack of backbench MPs howl out for Michael Howard to withdraw remarks about on pre-Iraq invasion intelligence, perhaps they should reflect on this.

AS a smug Tony Blair and his baying pack of backbench MPs howl out for Michael Howard to withdraw remarks about on pre-Iraq invasion intelligence, perhaps they should reflect on this.

Without the votes of Tories in the Commons, the Prime Minister would not have had his little war - I leave it to others to consider whether the Conservatives ought to be proud of that fact - because he could not convince enough of his own MPs that military action was right.

While the Tory leader is not backtracking on Tory support, he is raising doubts about the quality of intelligence which led us to war but is accused of "opportunism" by the Prime Minister.

That really won't do. The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Nationalists, and some free-thinking Labour MPs have been right to seek an inquiry. For ministers to dismiss those calls and insist there was "categoric" evidence Saddam had weapons of mass destruction defies all logic.


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Lord Hutton may have cleared the Government, under the narrow remit with which he was issued, in his inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the death of respected weapons inspector David Kelly. But the judge was not required to look at the intelligence that led to the infamous September 2002 dossier that alleged Saddam had WMD which he could deliver at 45 minutes notice.

Therefore Parliament and the public do not know on what basis that intelligence was based. By retreating to the bunker and wallowing in the misfortune Hutton brought down on the BBC, the Prime Minister is - to quote Michael Howard - has been "odd man out."

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Mr Howard did the rounds of yesterday's morning radio and television studios to put the case for a British inquiry. "Everybody, I think, now recognises that something went wrong over the intelligence and it is very interesting that it looks as though President Bush is going to hold an inquiry. I think we do need one here."

President Bush, in a crucial election year, is looking for a scapegoat for the WMD claims now that none have been found - and the fingers are being pointed clearly at the United Kingdom.

David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), has confirmed there "clearly were" intelligence mistakes. Mr Howard said: "We don't know, any of us, when the next time will be that calls will be made for us to intervene militarily and no doubt intelligence will play an important part in that.

"When that time comes, whenever it does come, we do need to have confidence in the intelligence information that is available."

The Liberal Democrats have also joined the fray. "Washington is now dictating the British political agenda. The Government's satisfaction at the Hutton Report may well be short-lived," says foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell.

LABOUR'S desperation to score a success in London's mayoral election in June led the Prime Minister and the party's national executive stand to stand on their heads and re-admit anti-war Ken Livingstone to the fold so he can be the party's candidate.

Unhappily for the Blairite rewriting of party history, an icy blast struck Labour's London poll hopes when a Liberal Democrat candidate swept to a landslide victory to gain at council by-election in Haringey. Labour only just managed to avoid the ultimate humiliation of crashing into third place behind the Green Party. If this result were to be confirmed by others in London next month it would cast a deep shadow over Mr Livingstone's bid for a second term in his old party's colours. It would also be a blow for Tony Blair.

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