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Friday, May 06, 2005

A very good morning in Wales

In the end it was a good night for the Liberal Democrats, though as usual there were disappointments as well as triumphs. In Wales it was just exceptional. Not only did the Welsh Liberal Democrats win their chief target seat of Cardiff Central with just under 50% of the vote and a majority of 5,593, but we also took Ceredigion off Plaid Cymru too, leaving us as the second largest Welsh political party at Westminster. We also achieved exceptional results elsewhere, not least Swansea West, where we secured a 9.6% swing and polled 28.9% of the vote to storm into second place, just 4,269 votes behind Labour.

The Tories achieved their expected breakthroughs in Monmouth, Preseli-Pembrokeshire and Clwyd West, but failed to capture the key marginals of Cardiff North and Vale of Glamorgan. The Morgan factor connects those last two results. Not only does Julie Morgan represent Cardiff North but she and her husband, the First Minister, live in the Vale.

As predicted by virtually everybody, Peter Law won Blaenau Gwent. The scale of his victory was unexpected however. A majority of 9,121 and a vote share of 58.2% in what was once Labour's safest seat. In contrast Wales newest party, the cuddly socialists of Forward Wales, secured just 2.4% of the vote and a lost deposit in Clwyd South, the only seat that I can find that they contested.

For Plaid Cymru it was a disaster. They failed to take their target seat of Ynys Mon, largely due to the intervention of Independent, Peter Rogers, and lost Ceredigion. Instead of the five seats they were dreaming of they ended up with just three.

It now looks as though the Liberal Democrats will be starting this Parliament with 62 MPs, 11 more than in 2001. Although we lost Newbury, Weston-Super-Mare, Guildford, Torridge and West Devon, Ludlow and the by-election gain of Leicester South, we held onto Brent East and took Dumbartonshire East, Hornsey and Wood Green, Cardiff Central, Ceredigion, Birmingham Yardley, Manchester Withington, Rochdale, Leeds North West, Inverness Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey, Bristol West, Taunton, Solihull, Westmoreland and Lonsdale, Falmouth and Cambourne and Cambridge.
Congratulations on your Lib Dem results. A good spread of gains across a lot of different areas.

I must say though I was a bit disappointed that the number of gains weren't higher, although winning more votes and more seats has to be a good thing.

Can I just say though - your electoral system seriously sucks!!

Labor gets 36% of the vote (from a turnout of around 60% I believe) and gets 55% of the seats! I know it was just as warped under Thatcher's 'landslide' victories, but I really don't understand why people aren't marching in the streets for electoral reform when the unfairness is so obvious.

Maybe it's just me and I'm missing something
Thanks Andrew. We seem to export decent electoral systems but never try them out ourselves!
Well, Simon Thomas is out - and a good thing too. Congrats. Now, Peter. Could I persuade my new Lib Dem MP to agree with Manzies Cambell:

There is no published evidence of the chemical, biological or nuclear capability of Iraq, but past history entitles us to conclude that there is a strong probability that such a capabilities exist or are being actively pursued

- and perhaps you could remind Mr Campbell about the gassing Kurds in Halabja: I think there's ample published evidence of Iraq's chemical capability. Isn't there?
I am sure that Mark Williams will agree with Menzies Campbell on this. I am sure he would also agree that the way to deal with this would have been to let the UN weapons inspectors finish their job, and then allow the UN security council to evaluate their work and recommend an appropriate course of action. Unfortunately, Bush and Blair did not wait around for that process to be completed and we went to war on a false premise.
Then are you against taking action that doesn't have the sanction of the UN? Like the action we took in Sierra Leone and Kosovo?

This probably isn't the place to rehearse the arguments but it seems to me a little dodgy to rely on Blix's team when UNMOVIC, in 2003, said they were 'uncertain' about posession of anthrax, ricin, botulinium toxin, VX nerve gas and sarin - and wouldn't be able to be more certain until they held interviews with Iraqis from a list of names suplied by the then Iraqi authorities.

Dr Obeidi was interviewed. The inspectors didn't find out about the bits and pieces of a uranium enrichment centrifuge he had buried in his back garden.
As I understand it, Blix's team were just days away from coming to the right conclusion on WMD. Instead we had to wait for a war and thousands of deaths to get to the truth.
The legal justification was non-compliance with 1441, not the proven presence or absence of WMD.

Your unsupported impression that inspectors were days away from what you describe with the benefit of hindsight as the 'right conclusion' is at odds with Blix's own statement that as late as the 20 February 2003, he "tended to think that Iraq still concealed weapons of mass destruction."

BBC interview here:

Even the Attorney General doubted whether 1441 justified going to war. The point about Hans Blix is not what he thought but whether he was given the time he needed to confirm one way or another. He was not and we were taken to war to counter non-existent WMDs.
The Attourney General's advice was that the action against Iraq would be legal.
Not the first version!
On the face of it, Peter, your view that Blair lied, the JIC lied, the Attourney General lied but Saddam told the truth is an odd place to be.

We know that Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people, declared stockpiles as late as 1998/9 and never told the international community if/how he got rid of them, an omission which in itself would have contravened his obligations under resolution 678.

I think we're rehearsing arguments that other people have already gone through.
I agree that we are rehearsing arguments that other people have gone through but you seem to be arguing with me on the basis of other people's words not mine.

I have not said that Blair lied, nor the Attorney General. I have certainly never defended the veracity of Saddam Hussein. What I am saying is that Bush and Blair went to war on the basis of finding and destroying WMDs that were not there and that if they had gone through the proper processes of international law - allowed the weapons inspectors to do their job, got the proper resolutions from the UN - then that would not have happened.

If that had happened we could then have made an honest assessment as to whether regime change was a legitimate objective, what its consequences were internationally and who else we might want to apply the same criteria too.

Instead we had a dishonest war in which the reasons for embarking on it have been lost in the midst of self-justification, misinformation and spin.
Ok, not lies then but 'misinformation' - a very fastidious distinction.

It wasn't anyone but Saddam who didn't allow the weapons inspectors to do their jobs. Here's what Dr David Kelly wrote on the subject:

After 12 unsuccessful years of UN supervision of disarmament, military force regrettably appears to be the only way of finally and conclusively disarming Iraq

The long-term threat, however, remains Iraq's development to military maturity of weapons of mass destruction - something that only regime change will avert

And yet the weapons inspectors were going about their jobs unimpeded when war was declared and were close to reaching a conclusion.

The outcome of that war proved conclusively that Dr Kelly was wrong. Iraq did not have the weapons of mass destruction he alluded to. Equally, regime change was not the reason given for going to war. If it had been then at least we could have had an honest debate on its merits and demerits.
The very best advice was that Iraq had certainly used chemical weapons; that it had admitted it still had chemical and biological weapons only a few years ago; that it had not told the UN, as it was required to do, whether and how it had got rid of them; that it had the capability and intention to produce them in the future; that it had consistently impeded weapons inspectors; that it was aggressive and expansionist; and that it was building links with terrorist organisations.

Kelly said that he believed military action was the only way to 'conclusively disarm' the country. He also argued that there was evidence Saddam still had chemical and biological weapons.

Hindsight wasn't available at the time.
No, hindsight was not available, but the weapons' inspectors were and they were in the process of completing their work when war was declared. If they had been allowed to complete that work then thousands of lives could have been saved and a decision taken on Iraq that would have been based on honest and thorough information, not dodgy military intelligence reports.

The job of the inspectors was to confirm compliance, not to investigate breaches. Saddam had thwarted them for years, as Dr David Kelly pointed out. And as Kelly pointed out, regime change would be neccessary.

Fact: Iraq was in material breach. Fact: the Attourney General's considered and honest opinion was that war was legal. Fact: Iraq had previously used chemical weapons. Fact: opinion at time was that Saddam had WMD. Fact: Saddam supported terrorists such as Ramzi Yousef (1993 WTC bomb) Abu Nidal and Mohammed Abul Abbas (Klinghoffer).

Fact: Menzies Campbell wrote: We can also agree that he [Saddam] most certainly has chemical and biological weapons and is working towards a nuclear capability

Fact: Charles Kennedy supported (unlawful?) Kosovo intervention.

Saddam killed about a million people through war and terror and persecution of his own people. How can you sensibly conclude that without regime change 'thousands' of lives would have been saved? How did you perform that calculation?


But we did not go to war to perform a regime change. The reason given was to prevent Saddam using WMDs that could allegedly hit the UK within 45 minutes.

Fact: those weapons did not exist and if we had let the weapons inspectors complete their job we would have known that. We could then have had a debate around the legitimacy of regime change and who else it might apply to.

The difference between confirming compliance and investigating breaches is a 'fastidious distinction' at best.

Fact: Iraq was not in material breach as proved by the USA and Britain themselves once the war was over.

Fact: The Attorney General's first considered conclusion was that a war based on regime change was not easily justifiable. The legal basis for the war was very doubtful.

Fact: opinion at the time is not the same as fact. Blair and Bush should have allowed the weapons inspectors to complete their work before throwing away thousands of lives. It has already been established that intelligence reports were over-egged to support a political decision.

Fact: Bush used as his justification for the war the fact that Saddam supported specifically one set of terrorists namely Al Quaeda. There is no evidence for this whatsoever and in fact it is considered that Al Quaeda and Saddam detested each other. You cannot justify your argument by inventing other justifications that were not used at the time. Other dictators have supported the terrorists you listed but we have not gone to war against them. Why not?

When did Menzies Campbell write that? He was also adamant that the weapons inspectors should be allowed to complete their work and that any action should have the support of the UN. Selective quotation proves nothing.

I have never concluded that without regime change we would have saved thousands of lives. I have argued that we did not go to war for regime change. I have argued that the objective of the war was to find non-existence WMDs and that if we had waited a bit longer we would not have had to go to war for that reason. That would have saved thousands of lives. Remember even Blair told the House of Commons that he was prepared to leave Saddam in place if he could be convinced that WMDs did not exist.

The question I would pose on regime change is to ask if it is a legitimate objective of foreign policy? If it is then how do we decide when to apply it and on what moral basis? Would we not be continuously at war? That debate was never held because it was not the reason given for going to war.
Well, Peter, you might imagine that Iraq wasn't in material breach. That contradicts the UN Security Council:



Menzies Campbell did say:

We all agree that Saddam Hussein is in flagrant breach of a series of UN resolutions, and in particular those relating to his duty to allow the inspection, and indeed participate in the destruction, of his weapons of mass destruction. We can also agree that he most certainly has chemical and biological weapons and is working towards a nuclear capability




Sorry if those facts don't fit with political opportunism.
Actually David they dont fit with the facts. I have already explained my position and that of my party a number of occasions and do not intend to repeat myself again. However, you should know that for all your selective quoting of Menzies Campbell he also supports the position I have taken.

Which facts are you denying, Peter?

Yes, Menzies Campbell has changed his position, in a disgraceful example of political opportunism. My 'selective' quoting - what a silly thing to say - is simply quoting one of his remarks which contradicts his later remarks. That was the point of my bringing it to your attention; you didn't seem to know anything about it.

Do you agree you were wrong about the material breach or are you still at odds with the UN?

You haven't explained your position or that of your party. You've just repeated the party line without bothering to acquaint yourself with the facts of the issue or the remarks of your own senior party leaders.
Given that Menzies Campbell made those remarks in 2002 I think that it is only fair to allow him to adjust his position to accord with the facts of the case as they later became evident. It is a selective quotation as firstly it comes from a David Aaronovitch article, a man I would not trust as far as I can throw him, and secondly, it is taken out of context of the series of events that have happened since then.

It seems to me David that you are the one that is in denial. The facts are that no weapons of mass destruction were found, they did noy exist and that we went to war on the basis of misinformation and spin.

Yes resolution 1441 (2002) found Iraq to be in material breach of disarmament obligations but it did so on the basis that it had been unable to establish the facts NOT that WMDs were present. My definition of a material breach at the point of war would be if WMDs had been found.

If you actually read past the heading you will see that the resolution instructed inspections to begin within 45 days to establish the facts. It was these inspections that USA and Britain were not prepared to wait for, going into a war without any evidence to back up their reasons for doing so. The resolution was not in itself justification for war as it was not allowed to run its course.

I have explained the position of myself and my party at length, the problem is that you do not appear to be listening. Instead you just keep quoting the same selective facts as if they amount to an argument.
So let's see then. You mistrust the Attourney General, the JIC, Blair, David Aaronovitch - but you believe Saddam.
If you are going to continue to misrepresent my views with this little tricks David then there is no point in continuing with this discussion. I deleted your last post largely because I was just too tired to respond but also because the whole dialogue is getting unhealthily abusive. I think we have both put our point of view across and just need to agree to disagree. This thread is at an end.
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