Kennedy urges voters to punish Prime Minister over invasion

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Charles Kennedy called on voters to punish the Prime Minister for his decision to invade Iraq, saying it would be a central issue in the general election.

Charles Kennedy called on voters to punish the Prime Minister for his decision to invade Iraq, saying it would be a central issue in the general election.

In a damning attack on Tony Blair's decision to launch an "illegal" war, he blamed the Prime Minister for misleading the British people over Iraq and said voters "have no reason to trust his word".

The Liberal Democrat leader added that the Iraq war deserved to be a central issue. "Every Labour candidate should answer for the Government's rush to war", while the Tories deserved to be punished for their "supine support" for the invasion.

The Liberal Democrats, who consistently opposed the war, predicted that Labour would pay on polling day for its support of George Bush. In Labour seats, such as Pendle in Lancashire and Luton South, where the Liberal Democrats came a poor third last time, the party is seeing a surge of support.

Private Liberal Democrat polling is showing that many traditional Labour voters, as well as people from ethnic minorities, are planning to vote for their party for the first time.

Mr Kennedy said the Prime Minister might interpret a victory "as a green light for pre-emptive strikes against Iran". The focus of the Bush administration was now on Iran and "some analysts have predicted a strike on Iran within 18 months", he added.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, has been unequivocal in his insistence that such action would be "inconceivable", while Mr Blair has said there are "no plans" for an Iran attack.

Mr Kennedy said: "The problem with the Prime Minister is that we have no reason to trust his word. He had 'no plans' to introduce student tuition fees, but he did. He had 'no plans' to raise national insurance, but he did."

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