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http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=543019
 

What is the verdict on your leader?

A decade after Tony Blair took over the Labour leadership, party followers give their opinion

21 July 2004

TONY BANKS, Former minister for sports

In terms of electoral success, he is the most successful Labour leader we've had. And 50 years down the line I thinkhe will be seen as a radical leader because of his constitutional changes - directly elected mayors, devolution, hereditary element of the House of Lords. There have been mistakes - Iraq will have consequences - but Blair should go on.

TONY BENN, Former Labour MP and cabinet minister

When Tony Blair was elected leader in 1994 he said New Labour was a new political party. He attracted the support of a number of Conservative newspapers who thought that the basic principles of Thatcher were safe with him. New Labour has distanced itself from the trade unions and seems happy in the company of Bush, Berlusconi and Murdoch.

LAUREN BOOTH, Writer

He might be leader of the country but he's no longer leader of the Labour Party. Over the past four years, we've seen concentration on asylum, benefit fraud, curfews and locking up children. One minute, single mothers are told to get out to work, the next they're told to stay at home. What happened to his war against conservatism? Now it's a war against liberalism.

ANN CRYER, MP for Keighley and Ilkley, Yorkshire

We have had many disagreements on policy, from the removal of single parent benefits to Iraq but he's a decent Prime Minister and is still well liked. However, he has been more concerned with the other side of the Atlantic than his own backbenchers over Iraq. He is now acknowledging that the security information is not up to scratch, but he really needs to say "mistakes were made".

ERIC FRIPP, Immigration barrister and former Labour party member

I have no trust at all in Tony Blair. I am concerned that he has adopted a more and more Presidential style and that checks and balances in the unwritten constitution are under attack. I left the Labour party because of their illiberal Home Office policies, in particular their attacks on the right to jury trial and on refugees.

JOE HAINES, Press secretary to Harold Wilson

Tony Blair could have done better. After 10 years as leader and seven years as prime minister it seems a bit odd to be coming out with new strategies now, such as on crime, instead of five years ago. Having said that, there's no one who could replace Blair and obviously be better, and so there's no option but to keep going until such time as he decides he's had enough.

LORD HEALEY, Former Chancellor

He was doing well until Iraq. He made mistakes on foundation hospitals and university tuition fees but before that his handling of domestic policy was excellent. Neither Blair nor America has an exit strategy from Iraq, and I suspect this is why we did not do well in the by-elections. It would be a good idea to let Brown take over; the polls suggest the party would do better.

SAJAWAL KHAN, Labour city councillor for 14 years in Newcastle

Despite losing control of the city after 30 years of Labour control, I have a lot of respect for Tony Blair. Policies like the New Deal are the ones that I hold dear, as it has brought 55m and 4,000 new houses to the west end of Newcastle. The biggest issue of all is clearly Iraq and my belief is that the country should have backed the UN position.

JO LAZZARI, Labour activist, 2004 election defeated candidate in a Liverpool district and single mother

I've just started my first graduate job (as an admin assistant) and I get 1,000 a month, and child care for Jack, my 18-month-old, costs 551 a month. Without the tax credits Tony Blair has brought in, I would not be able to pay my mortgage and barely feed and clothe the two of us.

SIR BILL MORRIS, General secretary, Transport and General Workers Union

Tony Blair has been a resounding success both as leader of the Labour Party and as Prime Minister. What he hasn't done is established a lasting legacy - he's tried hard on the Europe constitution but not succeeded. It's that he lacks. The downside to Tony Blair is he's lost a significant degree of public trust over the war in Iraq.

TONY NEWMAN, Deputy leader, Croydon Council

It has been a very positive 10 years under Blair. He has been a strong leader for us. His greatest achievement is putting so much into public services. Here in Croydon, Iraq is not what people are talking about - [they] care more about crime and the environment.Although it's not time for Blair to go, we are lucky to have Gordon Brown as well. He would be a good successor.

LORD PUTTNAM, Former film producer

Right across the board, leaving Iraq out, he has been remarkably successful. His stamina is quite remarkable. In the first term, I think we lost the best part of a year from not planning sufficiently when funds were still on the horizon, but not yet available. As for Blair continuing in power, that is a decision that he should make. I would hate him to become a victim of time.

MARK SEDDON, Editor of Tribune

I've never been a supporter of Blair; he doesn't have a socialist bone in his body. He is a political figure of the centre-right. When it comes to traditional Labour aims of redistribution, equality and the like, he's shown he hasn't got a great deal of interest. Most of the progress there has come from Gordon Brown. Blair has to go. Brown likes the Labour party, whereas Blair doesn't.

GERALDINE SMITH, Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale

The Labour Party and the British public have a great deal to thank Tony Blair for. He has brought in policies which have transformed Britain. But the war in Iraq was a serious error of judgement. He told MPs it was beyond doubt that there were WMDs and I feel angry that they were misled. It would be better for him to stand down with dignity and honour.

SAXON SPENCE, Labour councillor, Exeter Pinhoe Whipton

The last few years have been better than any Tory government. We've seen improvements in unemployment figures; children have been lifted out of poverty. But I was a strong opponent of the Iraq war. My view is that Brown should replace Blair, perhaps before the next election. Many of the Labour achievements came from Brown's office.


'Rejoice over Iraq': fury at Blair's echo of Thatcher

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor

21 July 2004   http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=543025

Tony Blair, on the eve of his tenth anniversary as leader of the Labour Party, echoed one of the most famous quotations from Lady Thatcher yesterday by telling critics of the war in Iraq to "rejoice".

Lady Thatcher told Britain to "Just rejoice... rejoice" when British forces recaptured South Georgia on 25 April 1982. She was under pressurefor allowing the Falkland Islands to be invaded by Argentina.

Mr Blair's use of the word "rejoice" - loaded with all the defiance that Lady Thatcher had given it - made Labour backbenchers wince during the Commons debate on the Butler report. "We couldn't believe it when he said that," said one Labour MP. "We shouted 'Thatcher' at him."

Mr Blair immediately recognised the gaffe, and quickly added: "Yes - let us be pleased."

A former whip, loyal to Mr Blair, said: "Rejoice is a word that we will have to wipe from the dictionary. I was appalled he used it."

But the damage was done. Alice Mahon, one of 41 MPs of all parties who staged a token protest vote against the Government on Iraq last night, said: "I don't know how he could say 'rejoice' when thousands of lives have been lost. They never counted the number of Iraqis who died, but how can he say rejoice? It is an insult to those who have died."

Alan Simpson, another leftwing Labour MP who campaigned against the war, said: "The only one who will rejoice with Tony Blair is Osama bin Laden."

Mr Blair painted a rosy picture of life after Saddam Hussein in Iraq, completely at odds with many eye-witness accounts of the Iraqi people's suffering.

Declaring "the blessings from the fall of Saddam are great," Mr Blair spoke of the 35 local elections in Iraq; the doubling of public-sector salaries; and schools and hospitals which were now open. "Removing Saddam was not a war crime. It was an act of liberation for the Iraqi people," he said. "My view is whatever mistakes have been made, rejoice that Iraq can have such a future."

He was immediately criticised by opposition MPs. Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader said: "He still doesn't get it. He does not know that he has got to show genuine contrition." Tam Dalyell, the Father of the House, called for Mr Blair to resign. Robin Cook, who resigned from the Cabinet over the issue, said the invasion of Iraq had created the conditions in which al-Qa'ida was "thriving". Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, said: "Why is it that for this Prime Minister, sorry seems to be the hardest word?"

The Prime Minister's denial that he lied over the war was under fresh scrutiny last night after Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, admitted he knew in September last year that two pieces of intelligence about Saddam's chemical and biological weapons had been withdrawn by MI6. Downing Street insisted that the Prime Minister did not know the intelligence had been withdrawn until the Butler inquiry was under way, but Mr Straw's admission will raise fresh doubts about assurances from No 10. It will also raise questions as to why no minister told the Hutton inquiry, and it will fuel calls for the inquiry by the Foreign Affairs Committee to be reopened today.

Admitting mistakes, Mr Blair announced four measures to respond to criticism in the Butler report.

There will be an end to "Government by sofa" - in a future crisis, Mr Blair will set up an ad hoc committee of the Cabinet with proper minutes. William Ehrman, the new head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, will be replaced in 2005 with an appointment of "someone beyond influence" by ministers. Senior intelligence officers will review the Butler report's findings and, finally, JIC assessments will be kept separate from the Government's case in any future dossier.

CAUSE FOR REJOICING?

* British soldiers killed during Iraq war: 60

* British soldiers injured in the conflict: 2,200

* Iraqi soldiers killed: 6,370 (estimate)

* Iraqi civilians killed: 13,000 (estimate)

* Projected cost of reconstruction: 55bn

* UK cost of war: 3.2bn

* Annual cost of keeping UK troops in Iraq: 1.5bn

* Percentage of Iraqis who would feel safer if US and UK troops left: 55

* Percentage of UK voters who believe Blair lied: 55

* Weapons of mass destruction found: 0


 
 

Defiant Blair concedes errors of style but not of substance

By Ben Russell, Political Correspondent

21 July 2004

Tony Blair publicly retreated yesterday from his informal style of decision-making at the heart of Government and conceded significant reforms of the way intelligence would be handled in the future.

Replying to pointed criticisms of his style of Government by Lord Butler's inquiry, he promised that a formal cabinet committee would replace meetings of main ministers and officials in his Downing Street "den" in any future crisis.

The Prime Minister also agreed that intelligence assessments would in future be published separately from any Government case for action and would include any caveats included by the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Outlining the Government's response to the Butler Report, he said a senior MI6 officer had been appointed to oversee reform of the resources and the organisation's validation process, after Lord Butler found crucial intelligence underpinning the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been withdrawn. Mr Blair also conceded that the Secret Intelligence Service would review its relationship with the Joint Intelligence Committee and the Defence Intelligence Staff, whose staff raised serious concerns about the strength of assessments underlying the dossier.

He confirmed the appointment of William Ehrman, the director general of defence and intelligence at the Foreign Office, as the interim head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and said a long-term replacement would be appointed next year.

But in an unapologetic performance amid stormy scenes in the Commons Mr Blair defiantly defended his decision to overthrow Saddam. He told MPs: "At least Iraq has a future within its grasp and though it is correct that the liberation was not the legal case for war, it was, as I said frequently at the time, why we should go to war with a clear conscience and a strong heart. Removing Saddam was not a war crime, it was an act of liberation for the Iraq people."

He said Iraq was the "front line of the war against terrorism", adding: "The terrorists know that if they fail and Iraq succeeds, Iraq will hold out hope not just to millions of Iraqis but throughout the region and the Middle East. So whether for the war or against it ... today's struggle is one in which no one should be neutral."

The Prime Minister was repeatedly challenged over concerns about intelligence raised by Dr Brian Jones, the former head of nuclear, biological and chemical intelligence analysis at the Defence Intelligence Staff.

Mr Blair agreed that it "follows naturally" that there should be clear procedures for intelligence officers such as Dr Jones to take their objections to judgements to the Joint Intelligence Committee.

Pressed to admit he had made mistakes in the run-up to war, Mr Blair said: "Of course, which is why I said at the beginningthese are the thingsI believe that the Butler report has identified we should change. What I do not accept is that it was a mistake to go to war."

Mr Blair dismissed interventions by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, who demanded to know why Mr Blair had described the intelligence on Iraq as "extensive, detailed and authoritative". He quoted conclusions from JIC assessments and said: "The one thing that is absolutely absurd is to suggest that anyone, given that Joint Intelligence Committee assessment, would have said 'Saddam Hussein? Weapons of mass destruction? I don't think that's much of a problem.'"

Mr Howard retorted: "You told the country that the basis of the intelligence was extensive, detailed and authoritative. That was wrong; why did you say that to the country?"

Mr Blair replied: "The notion that reading the JIC assessments you would not have concluded, clearly, because the judgements of the intelligence committee are the key things, if they judged that Iraq has a WMD capability and weapons I simply say, what Prime Minister would sit there and say 'well that may be what they judge and conclude but I am going to come to a different conclusion'?

"Imagine what would have happened afterwards had the threat materialised." Mr Blair insisted that he did not mislead the nation by failing to include caveats in JIC reports when he published the Government's dossier on Iraq's WMD.

He said: "The intelligence really left little doubt about Saddam and weapons of mass destruction ... and made it absolutely clear that we were entitled on the basis of that to go back to the United Nations and say there was a continuing threat from Saddam Hussein."

He insisted that Lord Butler's conclusions "makes it clear that he had both the strategic intent, illicit procurement of materials and was developing ballistic missiles in defiance of UN resolutions. In other words, it would have been entirely open to us, even on this evidence, to say he was in breach of UN resolutions."


 
 

Howard's failure to hit home plunges Tories into despair

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor

21 July 2004

Senior Tory MPs questioned Michael Howard's judgement last night after his failure to deliver a knockout blow to Tony Blair in the Iraq debate.

One Conservative shadow minister said: "It's all over."

Amid signs of a Tory "wobble" after the failure to make a breakthrough in the opinion polls, The Independent has learned that Mr Howard has told senior colleagues that he does not intend to change his line of attack.

He told a private dinner with key lieutenants on the eve of the Iraq debate that he would not change his leadership strategy to fight the coming election on the centre ground.

"He was very determined not to change course," said one shadow minister who was there. "He said we have to stick with the strategy that he has set out. He said we have to play it long. He said we have to keep banging on about the public services, health and education, because we have to widen our appeal."

Frontbench Conservative MPs said, after the Tories abject third place in both by-elections last week, that they expect the pressure to mount on Mr Howard to swing to the right by focusing on law and order, asylum, opposition to the EU, and tax cuts.

Lord Tebbit, Lady Thatcher's former party chairman, launch- ed the first attack at the weekend, describing Mr Howard's leadership as "colourless'' and destined for defeat at the next general election, unless he changed course.

Mr Howard is being urged by moderate Conservatives not to make the same mistake as William Hague, who swung to the right before the 2001 election and still failed.

Conservative MPs made it clear that there is no stomach on the Tory benches for another leadership challenge to replace Mr Howard.

One senior Conservative frontbencher said: "It is a case of KBO as Churchill said - Keep Buggering On."

There was widespread criticism of Mr Howard for giving an interview to The Sunday Times at the weekend in which he said that if he had known in March 2003, what he now knows from the Butler report, he could not have voted for war.

However, he said he still believed the war was justified, which opened him to the inevitable charge of "opportunism" from Labour MPs.

In yesterday's Commons debate, Mr Howard's attack on Mr Blair was thrown off course by repeated interventions by Labour MPs. At one point, there were nine Labour MPs standing up to intervene in his speech.

Mr Howard said: "It is now clear that in many ways the intelligence services got it wrong. But their assessments included serious caveats, qualifications and cautions.

"When presenting his case to the country, the Prime Minister chose to leave out those caveats, qualifications and cautions. As a result, the country was given a misleading impression of what the intelligence services had said. That is why the Prime Minister's credibility is at stake today."

But it was a question from the respected Tory MP Sir Patrick Cormack, sitting behind Mr Howard, which caused him most difficulty. Sir Patrick asked whether he was saying the country was deceived. Mr Howard said he had asked Mr Blair why he had said there was no doubt about the intelligence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. "I want to know before I answer your question," said Mr Howard.

One Tory MP said later: "It was not his best day at the office. It was too lawyerly."

The Tory MPs went on to sink their sorrows at a party at the Conservative Party Headquarters last night to mark their departure on Friday from Smith Square, the scene of three successive election victories by Lady Thatcher, for offices above a coffee shop in Victoria Street.

Mr Howard, who attended the party accompanied by his wife, Sandra, appeared satisfied with his performance. But senior officials were also dismayed at the way his attack on Mr Blair was blunted. "He had to tackle the issue of The Sunday Times interview. There was no way round it," said one senior party official.

Central Office insiders were privately saying Mr Howard's performance was "not his best" and claimed it was "difficult to make capital against Blair".

It was also noted ominously that Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, who was selected to fight the Kensington and Chelsea seat after the departure at the next election of Michael Portillo, comfortably eclipsed Mr Howard when he appeared on Channel Four News last night. "Rifkind is a class act," said one admiring Tory official.

Lord Parkinson, the former party chairman, who masterminded Lady Thatcher's first election victory, said Mr Howard would have to "soldier on". The important thing, Lord Parkinson told guests, was they should not panic at the failure to overtake Labour in the opinion polls.

Party strategists said that nearer the election, the Tories will use the "tax bombshell'' attack on Labour. However, there is growing concern inside the Tory leadership that the voters have become docile because of the buoyant economy.

 


 

Intelligence expert says Scarlett's MI6 appointment raises 'issue of credibility'

By Ben Russell

21 July 2004

Pressure on John Scarlett increased yesterday after the intelligence expert Brian Jones suggested that his appointment as head of MI6 raised an "issue of credibility" about the future of the security services.

Dr Jones, the former head of the nuclear, chemical and biological Defence Intelligence Staff, stopped short of calling on Mr Scarlett not to take up his appointment but said: "The intelligence community depends absolutely on its credibility. I think there is a big issue of credibility here and it's that credibility, that issue of credibility and Mr Scarlett's association with that which is the problem."

Dr Jones was applauded in the Butler report last week for raising concerns about the intelligence underpinning the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. He was a witness at the Hutton inquiry into the death of the government scientist David Kelly last year, giving evidence which revealed the concern in the intelligence community at the way the Government's 2002 dossier on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was put together.

Dr Jones warned that basic errors in the dossier on Saddam's weapons were "staggering". He said he was "suspicious" about new intelligence that he was not allowed to see which bolstered the dossier, but was later withdrawn by MI6. He told BBC Radio 4: "It was quite difficult to believe that something that voluminous and that detailed would become available.

"I could not think who would have been in a position to do an analysis of that sort of information other than my own staff. We were told at the time that it did clinch it and we should bury our concerns, if you like.

"From my perspective, no more was said or heard about that until quite recently when the information was revealed in Lord Butler's report that that intelligence had been withdrawn and I found that extremely surprising.

"The intelligence at the time was said to be so convincing. It would appear from what is there in the public domain that that intelligence was from an untested source. That is the sort of very fundamental error in intelligence that I find staggering."

 


http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=543021

 

Kennedy demands apology from PM

By Ben Russell

21 July 2004

Charles Kennedy yesterday demanded a public apology from Tony Blair as he said he was ashamed at the "litany of failings and political misjudgements" in the run-up to war.

Mr Kennedy told Mr Blair there had been a profound loss of political trust in the Prime Minister and his Government. "We believe that those all-important political judgements were wrong ... and that the case for war was fatally flawed."

In a performance free from the heckling which confronted Michael Howard, he said: "I don't think he quite gets it; what the people in the country think about all of this. He's got to demonstrate genuine contrition for the misjudgements over which he has presided which undoubtedly have taken place.

"The public have to have some sense of confidence restored in the process of government and the lessons to be learned from [these] events."

He added: "In his statement last week the Prime Minister spoke of his pride over what has been achieved in Iraq. We can all feel pride in the courage and professionalism of our armed forces. But we don't feel pride, in what they were instructed to do at the behest of the Government and increasingly not in the name of our country.

"And I do hope that when he reflects on all of this, the Prime Minister might acknowledge a sense of personal shame


http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/story.jsp?story=543020
 

'This isn't about the normal argy-bargy of politics. It is about 13,000 civilian deaths'

By Marie Woolf and Ben Russell

21 July 2004

The longest-serving MP in the House of Commons called for Tony Blair to resign yesterday following the findings of the Butler report.

Tam Dalyell, the father of the House of Commons, yesterday urged the Prime Minster to "consider making way" for a new Labour party leader. He called for Tony Blair to step down and allow the Labour party to begin the "due processes" to choose a new leader.

In a stinging intervention, Mr Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, implied that Mr Blair had become tired and should now stand aside.

"I think that the Prime Minister - 10 years of leadership of the Labour party is enough for any person - ought to consider making way in these circumstances, against the background of Butler, for someone else and set in motion the due processes of the party," he said.

Mr Dalyell also accused the Government of exaggerating the intelligence to bolster the case for war after the decision had been made to invade Iraq.

"The fact of the matter is that it was the policy objectives that drove the intelligence whereas it should have been the intelligence driving the policy directives. And the dossier was really part of a post-decision-making process," he said.

"The Prime Minister's statement on publication simply reinforced the impression that more authoritative intelligence existed. Iraq has become a war of liberation and I fear that, for many, we are the enemy."

He said that MPs could no longer "go on acting as if nothing has happened" in Iraq.

"We simply cannot have business as usual. Even if we wanted it, the daily news from Iraq wouldn't allow it," he said.

Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat member of the Joint Intelligence Committee, questioned claims from Mr Blair that there was a "nexus between terrorism and WMD".

He also said that Mr Blair "wrongly or insufficiently quoted" from the Butler report and "rested too much on very little evidence" to suggest there was a link between Iraq and terrorists before the war.

He also suggested that intelligence was used to back up a political decision to go to war.

"It's impossible to imagine the Prime Minister deciding not to participate when President Bush had decided to launch an invasion of Iraq. Can anyone seriously imagine him saying 'no, I cannot join in'?" he said. "Equally, it is impossible to imagine that the current threat to British interests which he perceived was such that he would have gone ahead if President Bush had decided not to. Can't imagine that either."

Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party MP for Banff and Buchan, said there was "deliberate deception at the heart of this process".

"We are expected to believe that at no stage did the Prime Minister examine the 45-minute claim. And at no stage did it ever occur to John Scarlett [chairman of the JIC] or anybody else that the withdrawal of sources for the WMD be reported to a politicians who were under examination by a variety of committees of this House," he said.

Mr Salmond questioned why Jack Straw did not reveal that crucial intelligence from M16 had been withdrawn. He accused Mr Blair of misleading MPs and the country by implying evidence showed Saddam Hussein was a clear threat.

"The Prime Minister kept trying to give the impression that there was this mass of evidence, only he could not disclose it and not jeopardise the source. If only we were able to see what he had seen then there would be absolutely no mistaking the case for war," he said. "The reality is that the evidence was at best fragmented, and the intelligence had nothing to do with the cause and reason for going to war.

The SNP MP accused Tony Blair of gambling with lives and paying a "blood price" in order to back up President Bush. He said: "The reason was to stay close. Shoulder to shoulder with America. To stay close and pay the blood price. This isn't about the normal argy bargy of politics. This is about 13,000 civilian deaths, many British soldiers dead, American casualties approaching 1,000. That is the blood price that is being paid. That is the blood price that the Prime Minister's actions have resulted in."

Marsha Singh, Labour MP for Bradford West, quoted from the front page of The Independent on 15 July, which summed up the Butler report.

"For those of us who opposed the war from the very beginning we didn't need the Butler report or the Hutton report. We knew quite simply that there was no imminent danger of attack to this country," he said. "We will never win the war on terror by waging war against Muslim countries. We have lost the trust of Muslims across the world and this is a heavy price for this country to pay."

He said that the ultimate responsibility for the war lay at the top of government and called for British troops to be recalled from Iraq. "This war hasn't made the world a safer place but immeasurably more dangerous," he said.

Andrew Mackay, Tory MP for Bracknell, said he felt "let down" by the Prime Minister because he had voted for the war. "I do feel that Parliament and the people have been misled."

He said he realised the Government had wanted to work with an ally as important the US but that sometimes a "close friend" should be able to say "you've got it wrong".

Malcolm Savidge, Labour MP for Aberdeen North, said the war on Iraq had probably made the UK a more likely target for terrorists. "Iraq was a hideous tyranny but was not associated with al-Qa'ida. There is a risk it could degenerate into precisely the sort of anarchy where terrorism could thrive," he said. He added that there was a need for a "more collective and more informed Cabinet Government".

He said he respected the Prime Minister's strong convictions but that he misled Parliament and the people into war.

"Last week he said he took full personal responsibility. I hope, for the sake of his own reputation, for the sake of the Labour Party, for the sake of the British Parliament and the British people, that he considers very carefully the full implications of his own words," he said.

Michael Meacher, former Labour Environment Minister, who supported the war, said he was "deeply uneasy" there was no international criteria that gave legitimacy to the action.

"The US went to war over Iraq both because of oil and for reasons of American control of the Middle East region. That war was planned from the very first day of the Bush administration. The events of 11 September then provided the pretext for that intervention. President Bush wanted British support," he said.

Clare Short, the former International Development Secretary, questioned why the UN weapons inspectors were not given more time. She said: "Surely the point us for all of us which supported [UN resolution] 1441 was not just that there was a generalised sense that the regime was trying to acquire WMD and the means of delivery, but there was some threat that was so urgent that we couldn't allow [Hans] Blix to complete his job thus dividing the international community with all the consequences that occurred. Where did he get that information? Why wasn't Mr Blix allowed enough time? Butler doesn't suggest there was any reason for that judgement."

Mr Short accused Mr Blair of throwing away "the possibility of united international action on the request for automaticity. That is the reality of the situation."

Harry Cohen, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead, called for the resignation of the head and deputy head of defence intelligence after they failed to show crucial new intelligence to Dr Brian Jones, the senior analyst who raised serious concerns about the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

He said: "That responsibility falls to the head of defence intelligence services and his deputy who presumably did see [the dossier]. That information has since been withdrawn, so shouldn't that head of defence intelligence services and his deputy resign?"

William Hague, former leader of the Tory Party, seized on Lord Butler's observations about the informal way Mr Blair took key decisions and warned it could lead to an erosion of accountability. "Informality can mean lack of rigour and the blurring of the line between officials and political advisers can lead to mistakes.

Peter Kilfoyle, former Labour defence minister, said the argument about WMD was "a fallacious argument that should never had been made".

VOICES IN THE COMMONS

By invading Iraq we have responded in precisely the way Bin Laden wanted. We and the West will have to live with the violent consequences of this strategic blunder.

Robin Cook, Labour, former foreign secretary

I think that, after 10 years, the Prime Minister really ought to consider making way in these circumstances, against the background of Butler, for someone else.

Tam Dalyell, Labour, Father of the House

We will never win the war on terror by waging war against Muslim countries. We have lost the trust of Muslims across the world and this is a heavy price for this country to pay.

Marsha Singh, Labour MP for Bradford West

You cannot picture most ministers being told by their officials that lunch would be ready in 45 minutes without asking questions about the menu and who it would be delivered by.

William Hague, former Conservative leader

It is impossible to seriously imagine the Prime Minister saying, when President Bush had decided to launch an invasion of Iraq, 'No, I dissent. I cannot join in'.

Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat member of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee

13,000 civilian deaths, many British soldiers dead, American casualties approaching 1,000. That is the blood price that the Prime Minister's actions have resulted in.

Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP in the Commons

What was so urgent that we couldn't allow Blix to complete his job ... Why wasn't Blix allowed enough time? Butler doesn't suggest there was any reason for that judgement

Clare Short, former International Development Secretary

If no action had been taken, Saddam Hussein would still be continuing, as the Butler committee concluded, his strategic intent to pursue a banned weapons programme.

Donald Anderson, Labour, Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman