Saturday, 22 May 2010

The four letters which won't go away

The last British soldier left Iraq over a year ago, yet the very mention of that country still haunts the Labour party.

Most of the anger about the Iraq war is directed at Tony Blair, but a certain amount is focussed on the Labour MPs who voted for the invasion in the House of Commons, without which the UK would not have been involved in the war.

The two candidates who were not in parliament at the time of the Iraq vote, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, decided to bring up the subject today and both said that the war was a mistake. This put Andy Burnham and David Miliband into a difficult position as both were in parliament at the time and both did vote for the invasion of Iraq. Understandably, David Miliband said it was 'time to move on' from Iraq, and Andy Burnham said it wasn't a big issue anymore.

The other two candidates, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, were also in parliament during the time of the Iraq war, but they voted against the invasion, and they think it definitely still is a big issue and they really want to talk about it – if for no other reason than to point out to potential supporters how they voted on the Iraq war.

Perhaps this is the real reason why the two Eds (Balls and Miliband) wanted to state their opposition to the invasion, as it neutralises the power of the outsiders (Abbott and McDonnell) and at the same time it points out that the frontrunner (David Miliband) supported the war which most in the Labour party were vehemently against.

How all this will affect the leadership election is extremely hard to tell, but one thing is certain, two general elections and as many Prime Ministers have now come and gone since the invasion of Iraq, but the Labour leadership contenders all feel it still has resonance with the voters.

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