He will not apologise. But he must admit his mistakes

Share
Related Topics

Once again, Tony Blair has failed to put the war in Iraq behind him. He will never be able to do so, and it is right that he should pay an electoral price for his misjudgement, even as the international community begins to unite behind the objective of rebuilding a sovereign, democratic Iraq.

Once again, Tony Blair has failed to put the war in Iraq behind him. He will never be able to do so, and it is right that he should pay an electoral price for his misjudgement, even as the international community begins to unite behind the objective of rebuilding a sovereign, democratic Iraq.

There are many people, including in his own party, who want Mr Blair to pay a more personal price, and hand over the leadership of the country to Gordon Brown, whose enthusiasm for military action was contained, to say the least. This newspaper does not believe that such a change would be in the national interest, and that, viewed in the round, Mr Blair's record justifies his continuance in office.

Nor do we join the righteous demands for Mr Blair to apologise for the war. There is not the slightest chance of his doing so, and it would be insincere and unconvincing if he did. As it is, the sincerity of Mr Blair's mild admission that Iraq cast a "shadow" over last week's elections is doubtful enough. As we report today, he is expected shortly to announce the deployment of further troops.

The Prime Minister is quite right to insist on looking forwards, and to enjoin critics and supporters of the war to come together to try to make the best of the situation in the Middle East as it is rather than as we would prefer it to be. If more British troops are needed, they must be sent. But that cannot mean simply forgetting the errors of the past. While it is futile to expect Mr Blair to apologise for the war, he will deserve to be re-elected next year only if he openly acknowledges that mistakes were made.

This is, emphatically, not a matter of breast-beating for the sake of it. A prime minister who does not admit his mistakes cannot learn from them. That takes us to the heart of the issue. Robin Cook, who resigned from the Cabinet rather than take responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis, wants Mr Blair to "make clear that there will be no more Iraqs if he is re-elected". So far, the Prime Minister has made it all too evident that he would "do the same again" in similar circumstances. That is precisely what many voters are worried about.

Next month's report of Lord Butler's committee on the pre-war intelligence failures will be a critical test. A few days ago Mr Blair seemed to be edging towards a new definition of the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "There was an intention of Saddam Hussein at some point to reconstitute it [the programme]," he told the BBC. He is going to have to be more honest and open than that. He is going to have to accept that he was not as careful in interpreting uncertain intelligence as he might have been, and that his rush to judgement might have at least "subconsciously influenced" the spies in endorsing the case for war, as Lord Hutton found. That ought to make it all but impossible to fight another pre-emptive war on the basis of intelligence alone.

Admitting mistakes in order to learn from them is the start of wisdom.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: The spurious Tory endorsement that misfired

Oliver Wright
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence