Blair takes the Mel Gibson approach to conflict in Iraq

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The Independent Online

There is much to admire in the Prime Minister's new presence. It's called The Quiet Humility That Comes From Certainty. His calm originates in another world, you see; his steps are directed by a higher power. Perhaps, like Mel Gibson, he feels the script he's producing is being directed by the Holy Ghost.

Referring to recent violence in Iraq and Pakistan, Mr Blair told the House: "This is literally a fight between the forces of good and the forces of evil."

Just remind me, whose side are we on again? British realpolitik has led us to finance and give state visits to any cannibal, lunatic and genocidal maniac, not least Saddam Hussein, as long as they act as the enemies of our current enemy.

Mr Blair's new mode may indicate religious mania or simply that he has been reading George Bush's Superman comics.

"Why have you come to earth, Superman?" He replies, "To fight for Truth, Justice and the American way." Cue applause and tearful bravery.

Michael Howard's support of the efforts to reconstruct Iraq enraged Gerald Kaufman. There we were, he cried, bunkered up in the Shadow Cabinet in the '91 war (oh, it was tough): "We gave full, unwavering and undeviating support to the Government as a matter of principle! Never did we ask for publication of legal justification! What a wriggling, squirming mess of ..." (you can probably finish this sentence on your own).

The legal status of the Gulf War, remember, had been helpfully clarified by Saddam invading Kuwait. This war had nothing so straightforward to recommend it. A little over a year ago, Mr Blair was telling us that he'd never commit troops for the purpose of regime change. If Saddam gave up his weapons of mass destruction he could stay in power as long as liked.

When we come to canonise Mr Blair, the devil's advocate may want to dwell on that point.

So Charles Kennedy was right to wheel in the question of public trust. If Mr Blair ever wants to do anything like this again (and God knows, the world is full of tyrants) he's going to have to vindicate himself somehow. The Certainty That Needs Not Raise Its Voice is, perhaps, a start.

A Tory criticised him for only voting in 5 per cent of divisions. "I have answered more questions than any other ..." Jeers interrupted him; Tories laughing: "You haven't answered any!"

"Well, I've answered more questions to my satisfaction, if not to everyone else's," he smiled, almost seraphically.