Sir Peter Tapsell, the venerable Tory MP, opened Prime Minister’s Questions by suggesting that the Commons “commence the procedures of impeachment” against Tony Blair for “allegedly misleading the House” over the Iraq war, 11 years ago.
His extraordinary intervention left some people thinking that the Father of the House had lost his marbles: “Has 84 year old Peter Tapsell forgotten he voted for Iraq war?” the Political Scrapbook website inquired. Others wondered why he invoked a procedure that went out of use in his country centuries ago. This is not the USA, where a president can be impeached.
I managed to track down Sir Peter in a back corridor in Parliament to put it to him that the Hansard record for the night of 18 March 2003 shows him going through the same voting lobby as Tony Blair, David Cameron and the other supporters of the war.
He claimed: “There were two votes that evening. The first was over whether to go to war, the second was over equipping the troops. I voted against the war, but there is a complete difference between that and wanting the troops to be properly equipped once the decision was taken.”
His memory is imperfect, because Hansard shows that he abstained on the first of the evening’s two votes, having voted against the war on a previous occasion, in February. The resolution he supported promised “wholehearted support” for the troops on the ground, but also contained the contentious words “that the United Kingdom should use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction”. As we now know, Iraq’s WMD were already disarmed.
As for impeachment, not used in the UK since the Secretary for War Henry Dundas was found to have misused public funds, in 1806, Sir Peter says: “A lot of people say it no longer applies, and Parliament has twice recommended that it be abolished, but that would require legislation, and it has never happened.”
Oh well, if T. Blair finds this prospect alarming, he can always find sanctuary in Kazakhstan or somewhere else where rulers are treated with more respect than in the UK.
Beleaguered May beats her retreat
Meanwhile, the doyen of Labour MPs, 83-year-old Sir Gerald Kaufman, was not pleased to see the retreating back of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, as he rose to address the Commons on the logjam in the passport office.
“The Home Secretary is shuffling out, as she always does when anything sensible is being said – the worst Home Secretary of my 44 years in the House of Commons, as we have seen today. There she goes, useless and arrogant,” he said.
Ukip makes some funny friends
Congratulations to Ukip on finding enough friends across Europe to form a new parliamentary group in the Brussels parliament of 48 members from seven nations. They include two Swedish MEPs, members of the Sweden Democrats, founded in 1988 as a white supremacist party.
One Sweden Democrat in the early days was a former member of the Waffen SS. In 1996, their leader banned the wearing of uniforms at party meetings to stop neo-Nazis from turning up in Nazi uniform.
Last December, a leading Sweden Democrat, Marie Stensby, resigned from all her position in the party after it was revealed that she had posted a comment expressing the hope that teenage asylum-seekers who were on hunger strike would starve to death.
Nigel Farage said: “I am very proud to have formed this group with other MEPs and we undertake to be the people’s voice.”