The Guardian & The Independent – 2005-04-27 08:56:34
Britain’s Blair Faces Fresh Impeachment Threat over Iraq
Matthew Tempest / Guardian political correspondent
LONDON (April 26, 2005) — The Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru today pledged they would make a fresh bid to impeach Tony Blair over the Iraq war after the election.
Alex Salmond and Plaid’s Westminster leader, Elfyn Llwyd, campaigning together in Scotland, criticised the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, and his party for failing to back the impeachment bid, despite opposing the war, as Iraq creeps back up the election agenda.
Mr Llwyd said the prime minister had “got away with murder” over the war, although he later said he did not mean that literally.
The two leaders promised they would pass a fresh motion in the new parliament demanding impeachment on the grounds of “deliberately distorting” intelligence in the lead up to the invasion.
At the weekend, the Mail on Sunday reported what it said was a summary of the attorney general’s initial legal opinion, in which there were six areas of concern that the impending war could be illegal. Many Westminster pundits expect a full version of Lord Goldsmith’s advice to be leaked before polling day next Thursday, keeping the issue on the front burner.
Today, Mr Salmond accused the prime minister of taking Britain to war on the basis of a lie, and Mr Llwyd said: “”The reason [for impeachment] is you either allow the prime minister to literally get away with murder or you do something about it.
“We decided that, for the sake of democracy, we will use the procedure available.”
Mr Llwyd said later: “I’m not saying literally murder – but we do know tens of thousands have and are being killed, and all of that would probably not have happened had it not been for this awful intervention by Bush and Blair,” he said.
The two parties submitted a motion for impeaching Mr Blair in the last parliament but this did not get to the debating stage.
Some 30 Labour MPs had voiced informal support for that motion but none were prepared to sign it, Mr Salmond said.
However, he argued, the electoral landscape in the new parliament could look very different.
“It’s clear that the Tories can’t win this election – they are a busted flush, a spent force,” the SNP leader said.
“It is also clear that the Liberals can’t win the election south of the border … [and] while arithmetically, Labour cannot lose south of the border, prime minister Blair can lose this election — and he can lose this election if the complexion of the next House of Commons is less docile. I think there are substantial reasons for believing that to be the case.”
Mr Salmond predicted that the 30 Labour MPs sympathetic to the earlier impeachment motion would have fewer inhibitions in the new parliament.
The earlier motion had failed to be debated because it did not have cross-party consensus behind it, although a handful of Tories, including Boris Johnson, supported it.
Former Labour MP Brian Sedgemore, who voted against the government on Iraq and a host of other issues such as identity cards and home arrest, today defected to the Libreral Democrats, citing the war and civil liberties as his reasons.
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Business Leaders Abandon Blair over Iraq War
Michael Harrison, Business Editor / The Independent
LONDON (April 26, 2005) — Three of Britain’s leading businessmen refused to sign a letter endorsing Tony Blair because of the invasion of Iraq.
The three — Sir Terence Conran, Tim Waterstone and David Potter, the chairman of Psion — are long-standing Labour supporters and each of them signed a letter backing the party before the 1997 and 2001 elections.
But they refused to sign a round-robin letter extolling Labour’s economic record which appeared in the Financial Times yesterday because they opposed the war and the way Britain was led into it on a false premise.
Mr Waterstone, the founder of Waterstone’s bookshops, said: “For me it was the single issue of Iraq. The invasion was a totally shameful and disgraceful action. I think Blair should have resigned over Iraq and Gordon Brown should now be Prime Minister.”
He added that he had not decided which way to vote next week even though he had supported Labour since his boyhood. “It is a sad moment for me because it has been my party since I was a child. But I am really horrified by Iraq and it just gets worse and worse.”
Mr Potter, who founded the hand-held computer firm Psion 25 years ago, said the Iraq invasion had undermined his trust in Mr Blair and raised questions over the judgement of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
A spokesman for Sir Terence, whose business empire stretches from restaurants to shops, said he had disagreed with Mr Blair on a few things, particularly Iraq and university tuition fees. Last year, he also voiced his concerns over increasingly widespread smoking bans.
The three businessmen were among 58 executives who signed a letter in the Financial Times in 2001, endorsing Labour. This year, a total of 63 business leaders signed a similar letter, which hailed Labour’s “unprecedented growth”.
Other business leaders who refused to sign the letter this year despite their support in 2001 include Allan Leighton, the chairman of Royal Mail, and Sir John Parker, chairman of National Grid Transco.
© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
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