Did the Iraq war undermine our faith in politics?
I took part in a BBC2 Newsnight special on Iraq, 10 years on, which will be broadcast tonight. Most of the programme was refreshingly sane and balanced, in that it was about what Iraq is like now and the implications for liberal interventionism elsewhere. It featured many Iraqi voices who, though they said that the country is still in a bad state, expressed optimism about the future.
The segment in which I took part was more predictable, as it was about the effect of the war on Britain and on British politics.
Charles Kennedy said that at least Iraq meant that there would have to be a “proper” vote in the House of Commons when the Government wanted to engage in military action in future. The vote on 18 March 2003, carried by 412 to 149, was apparently “a con”, and Kennedy implied that there ought to be a law against cons, although he accepted that it would be hard to know how it should be drafted. Whether the vote for military action in Libya, carried by 557 (including Kennedy) to 13, on 21 March 2011 took place under the new con-free arrangements, I do not know.
Someone in the audience made the familiar complaint that Tony Blair had “ignored” the demonstration against the war on 15 February 2003, which meant the decision was “not democratic”. I managed to get out the words “parliamentary democracy” – I don’t know if they will survive the editing – but wish I had had time to point out that all the people who voted Conservative in the 2005 general election, and all those who voted for Charles Kennedy’s party, were “ignored” when it came to forming a government, because more people had voted for Blair’s party.
Anyway, Kennedy agreed that the Iraq war had undermined our faith in politics – although he was canny enough to say that the fuss over MPs’ expenses had done so too. Which is interesting, because this Ipsos MORI series suggests that Iraq had no effect on whether people thought politicians tell the truth; and that attitudes changed only after the expenses scandal in 2009.
Would you tell me if you generally trust them [politicians] to tell the truth, or not? Not:
1983 1993 1997 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2011
75% 79% 78% 72% 74% 77% 73% 75% 71% 73% 72% 76% 73% 82% 80%
Update: Further evidence that young people have become, if anything, more engaged in politics since Iraq.
Tony Blair was also interviewed by Kirsty Wark for the programme. The full interview will be shown tomorrow night; but tonight will feature clips, including this:
It remains extremely divisive and very difficult. My point to people is this – I’ve long since given up trying to persuade people it was the right decision – in a sense what I try and persuade people of now is how complex and difficult a decision it was.
There is also a five-minute extract from it here.Tagged in: contemporary history, iraq, iraq war, tony blair
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter