David Cameron writes in today’s Times. It’s pretty shameless really. He’s trying to capitalise on the general weariness of the public towards Iraq by appearing to be pro-withdrawal without actually being out of step with the Government.
It’s a little reminicent of the Labour Party’s line on Europe in 1997. Labour just managed to find a reasonable line (talking about Britain leading in Europe) and then constantly talked about the Tories being split on the issue. There wasn’t much substantive policy difference, the social chapter aside, but it still worked.
The irony of the whole piece is that when you summarise what he’s saying, it’s pretty much Government policy anyway. The basic tenor of his argument is: be honest about how bad it is; make Iraq secure; build up the Iraqi army; and bring in Iraq’s neighbours to help out.
Although Cameron is cautious, it allows him to say: “it is right to make clear that theirs is not an open-ended commitment, and that our objective is to hand over responsibility just as rapidly as conditions on the ground allow”.
The danger is that if Cameron is allowed to capture this ground, then he finds a way to hit at Labour on probably the party’s most weakest point. To prevent that, the Government is going to have to find a way to demonstrate that, at the very least, it is moving towards ending the stationing of British troops in Iraq.
There was also some other intersting stuff in the papers about Iraq. It’s not much of a surprise that Micheal Meacher has now stopped pretending that he was anti-war, and says that he made a mistake. But tucked away in that story is a line that Jon Cruddas will “shortly explain why he voted for the war.”
It should be interesting to hear what he has to say, especially in view of the recent interview with Compass, where Cruddas said: “The planning was clearly totally bungled and the neo-liberal policies imposed on Iraq by the US after the war have been a disaster. We need to find a way of ending the occupation and bringing the troops home without Iraq descending even further into chaos. I also think that the way the intelligence was manipulated before the war started was unforgiveable. The government needs to admit openly the mistakes it made, and apologise.”