Mark Steel: Labour's leadership candidates are all against the war now

Related Topics

There's an honourable tradition in the Labour Party of bravely standing against an unjust war – as long as the war ended several years ago. So, one by one, Labour's leadership candidates are announcing their opposition to the invasion of Iraq, just in time for it all to end. Labour leaders did a similar thing after the Vietnam War, and the First World War, and at the moment they all support keeping the army in Afghanistan, but I bet they haven't a good word for the Second Crusades, which is the main thing.

Maybe the whole anti-war movement should follow this example, as it would make people feel more effective than campaigning against wars still going on. Imagine how powerful demonstrators would feel if they held a Stop the Crimean War march. Someone could announce at the rally afterwards that it had indeed stopped, 160 years ago. Then, instead of the usual feelings of impotence, everyone would go home delighted.

Ed Balls and the Milibands have distanced themselves this week from the war they supported, so to get ahead Ed Miliband will now say he's going on the march, adding that he would have gone on it at the same time as everyone else seven years ago but he was waiting in for a wardrobe to be delivered and it's only just come.

Ed Miliband now says he "believed the UN inspectors should have been given more time," although he doesn't appear to have said this back then, presumably as he was saving up this comment for when it really mattered. Next he'll say "and I'm a firebrand on the Corn Laws now I've made my mind up". And David will say: "I did vote for the war, but I had a dream that me and a squirrel were stuck in a windmill in Basra, which shows that my subconscious was firmly against it."

David Miliband, the only one lucky enough to be an MP at the time, says he supported the war because of evidence of Saddam's famous "weapons", adding he would have opposed it "if we had known then what we know now". But the only reason people believed Saddam had those weapons was because Miliband's government was telling everyone he did. So, he's saying: "If I'd known I was lying it would have been different, but how could I possibly know I was making stuff up? You can't blame me for fooling myself, as I'm very persuasive."

David Miliband is also accused of being complicit in handing suspects over to be tortured, so maybe he'll try a similar defence, saying: "If I'd known at the time that torture could include pain I would never have approved of it. But someone told me electrodes were more tingly than unpleasant, like one of those strange chairs that massages your back. Still, you live and learn."

Something similar has happened on other issues as well, so ministers who've advised and voted in favour of making their party friendly to the City are now appalled by the greedy bankers they spent 15 years admiring. It was all done to place Labour in the centre, but what they didn't see is that the centre can change place, and what was once seen as extreme, such as opposing wars and despising bankers, is now mainstream.

Otherwise why would they all have discovered the war was wrong right now? Even a month ago they said nothing, so they've all just changed their minds, have they? Some people might suspect they've decided to oppose the war because they figure this will help them get elected as leader, and they supported it before to help their careers, and the effect of their decisions on the fate of millions of people has played no part in their judgement at any time. But that would be cynical so let's just accept it must be a coincidence.

But also, there were plenty of others who weren't fooled by the shady evidence, so surely the Labour Party would do better to entrust the leadership to people who weren't so easily duped. There's contender John McDonnell, who opposed the war from the start, and others include Damon Albarn, Zoe Ball, Chris Eubank, Leo Sayer and Jimmy Hill, who should surely form the basis of a far more principled, astute and imaginative shadow Cabinet.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?