Will the 2003 invasion carry on being an issue after Tony has left?
Yesterday’s extraordinary comments by the Head of the Army and the mounting daily death toll in Iraq are timely reminders that Labour’s decision to go to war in 2003, supported wholeheartedly by the Tories, will remain high on the UK political agenda.
This weeks “revelations” from David Blunkett about Gordon Brown’s role and views ahead of the critical decisions in 2003 will add further to the debate and raise the serious question of whether the Chancellor will be able to draw a line under the affair after he’s been handed the keys of Number 10.
It’s entirely possible that the war could be still be a major issue at the time of the next election and the positions that all the main players took three and a half years ago could come back to haunt or help them.
For if Britain does withdraw with the mission not accomplished it could be seen as a humiliation. The more Iraq gets worse the more questions will be asked of Brown about why he gave his support to what Blair was doing.
Did his ambition for the top job hold him back from acting to restrain the Prime Minister? Could he have threatened to follow the late Robin Cook.
The main consolation for the Chancellor is that there’s not an easy way out for Cameron. Although at the time he was still a rookie MP there is a lot on the record of his support for the war which seems to have continued. Having watched Michael Howard try and fail to make political capital out of Blair’s predicament last time the Tory leader will have to be very careful to avoid charges of opportunism.
No doubt everything that Cameron has said or done on Iraq is being pored over by Labour and the Lib Dems to find sticks to beat the Tory leader with.
The Tories will press hard for more detail of what went on in Blair’s government during the critical period and might find an angle that they can exploit – but the chances of being able fire everything at Brown are limited.
If this does become an issue then the Lib Dems, and Ming Campbell in particular, might benefit. His stance then and now is well known and could get a boost from the very changed mood in the country.