Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn promises to apologise for Iraq war on behalf of party if he wins election

The frontrunner said Britain entered the conflict on 'the basis of deception'

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Jeremy Corbyn will apologise on behalf of Labour for the decision to take Britain into the 2003 Iraq war on “the basis of deception” if he becomes leader, he has said.

The left-wing frontrunner in the Labour leadership election said he would say sorry to both the British and Iraqi people in a statement issued to The Guardian newspaper.

Describing the Iraq war as a mistake of horrendous proportions, he said the UK’s participation in the conflict had lost millions of votes from the party’s “natural supporters”.

Tony Blair, who was Prime Minister at the time, has never apologised despite the reason given for the invasion – that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed a danger to the world – subsequently proving to be false.

However during the Chilcot Inquiry Mr Blair did speak of his regret at the loss of life. The Iraq Body Count project estimates 219,000 have died in the violence following the invasion, while 179 British personnel and 4,425 Americans were also killed.

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Sir John Chilcot first announced the terms of reference of his inquiry into the causes of the Iraq war in 2009 (PA)

Mr Corbyn said: “It is past time that Labour apologised to the British people for taking them into the Iraq war on the basis of deception and to the Iraqi people for the suffering we have helped cause. Under our Labour, we will make this apology.

“As a party, we found ourselves in the regrettable position of being aligned with one of the worst right-wing governments in US history, even as liberal opinion in the US was questioning the head-long descent into war.”

Publication of the Chilcot Inquiry’s report has been delayed for years but Mr Corbyn said it was not necessary to hear its findings to know that an apology should be made.

“The endless delay on the Chilcot inquiry [report] is wrong. But we don’t have to wait for Chilcot to know that mistakes were made and we need to make amends,” he said.

The war was one of the reasons that Labour, which won the 2005 election with a reduced majority, had struggled since 2003, Mr Corbyn argued.

“It has also lost Labour the votes of millions of our natural supporters, who marched and protested against the war,” he said.

“We turned our backs on them and many of them have either withheld their votes from us or felt disillusioned, unenthusiastic and unmotivated.”

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