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Monday, March 01, 2004

Tories join the opposition - at last!

Where Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats lead the Official Opposition eventually follow. If only the Tories had taken this view at the beginning then we would be in a different situation altogether. The truth is of course that after Claire Short dropped her bombshell the Tories started to look more and more irrelevant on this issue. They had supported the war and thus were unable to capitalise on the opportunities that presented themselves when the weapons of mass destruction failed to appear and the Prime Minister's case for invasion began to fall apart. They jumped in with both feet in an attempt to pre-empt the Hutton report and were left with egg on their face and they supported the Butler Inquiry, even though the terms of reference were too narrow and inadequate, only to change their mind later. They have abandoned all pretence of being an effective opposition along with any attempt at providing a principled and coherent alternative.

Update: Matthew Turner draws our attention to the rather neat juxtaposition of Michael Howard's words in early February when the Tory Party Leader was reported as saying:

"I am confident that the terms of reference cover the use made by the Government of the intelligence," Mr Howard told conservatives.com. He added: "If we have a thorough report on the nature of the intelligence and the way in which it was used by the Government, which is fairly and squarely within the remit, then it will be open to everyone to make their own judgements about why we went to war and whether the reasons were justified."

to those he used only a few weeks later:

"It makes clear that it will consider such acts or omissions only in the context of its examinations of structures, systems and processes," said Mr Howard. "There is no basis in the terms of reference for that view and I consider it a quite unjustifiable restriction on the committee's approach. After careful reflection of these matters, I have therefore, decided with regret to withdraw my cooperation from the Butler Review."

Still, I suppose he got it right the second time.

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