Labour MPs to fight on anti-war ticket

Labour MPs who opposed the Iraq war are to defy Tony Blair by making it a key "issue of trust" at the general election expected on 5 May.

In a setback for the Prime Minister's attempt to "move on" from Iraq two years after the military action, 17 rebel MPs have signed a declaration saying: "I was and remain totally opposed to the war on Iraq. If elected as your parliamentary representative in the forthcoming general election, I will do everything in my power to bring the occupation of Iraq to an end."

The MPs fear a backlash from voters over the war and will try to insulate themselves against one by including the statement in their election leaflets. The rebels' decision to make Iraq "an issue of trust" is a coded attack on Mr Blair.

His personal trust ratings have plummeted after the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq fuelled criticism that he took the country to war on a false prospectus.

The Liberal Democrats and Tories will try to exploit Mr Blair's "trust problem". Labour officials insist the Iraq war is "fading" in most people's minds but admit many voters feel they "lost" Mr Blair to foreign affairs during his second term.

In a recognition that Iraq will be an election issue, a group backing Mr Blair's strategy of "moving on" has issued "lines to take" for Labour Party members. It insists Mr Blair was not backing President George Bush but the Iraqi people when he sent in British troops.

Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham South and chairman of Labour Against the War, said: "The war and the leader are the biggest factors on the doorstep. Those MPs who opposed the war would be daft not to make that clear to their constituents. It's the biggest single issue driving Labour supporters into another camp - either the war itself or the question of trust."

He added: "At parliamentary by-elections, the party has pursued the Basil Fawlty line. The basic instruction is, whatever you do, 'don't mention the war'. But it's the issue that gets thrown back at Labour candidates on the doorstep."

John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington and chairman of the left-wing Labour Representation Committee, which drew up the declaration, said: "The war is an emblematic issue of trust. Central for the electorate is 'are they listening to us and can we trust them?' Anti-war Labour candidates will be making explicit where they stood on the war. In some cases, it could make the difference between success and defeat."

He added: "I'll be making sure people know my record in opposing the war. It is a continuing issue for a significant number of constituents and is not confined to the Muslim community." Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley, said: "Some of us made a very principled stand to vote, constantly, against the war at a difficult time, we now hope and trust that our constituents will appreciate what we did on their behalf."

Several Labour MPs who have not signed the statement will make clear their reservations about Iraq in their election material. Des Turner, MP for Brighton Kemptown, has put a "personal statement" on his website: "I have consistently voted against British involvement in the war on Iraq, but I would not want my negative views on British involvement in the conflict to detract from my support for British troops who are undertaking a difficult job."

The Labour Friends of Iraq has launched an attempt to defuse the issue at the election. In a campaign pack, the group admits it might have been wrong for Britain to go into Iraq, but insists: "We are where we are. Today, almost everyone wants a sovereign democratic Iraq. The last thing the Iraqi people need is for us to cut and run now. If the multinational force withdrew tomorrow, there will be a bloodbath, civil war, the Balkanisation of Iraq and the end of the hopes of all democrats and progressives."

The group, whose joint presidents are the Labour MPs Harry Barnes and Ann Clwyd, Mr Blair's special envoy to Iraq, denies the Prime Minister is "just Bush's poodle", saying that he opposed the US President on the Kyoto treaty.

It admits "grave mistakes" have been made in Iraq but insists there are "many good news stories" to tell, including the removal of Saddam, the trials of Saddam and his henchmen, the return of Iraqi refugees and the rise of a free Iraqi trade union movement.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor