Nothing became the new Labour leader less during his conference speech than his comments on Iraq. He put it thus: “many [Labour MPs] sincerely believed that the world faced a real threat. I criticise nobody faced with making the toughest of decisions… But I do believe we were wrong…to take Britain to war and we need to be honest about that.”
The implication, it seems, is that Ed Miliband did not believe Saddam Hussein’s regime posed a real threat to the world. His argument on this is loosely worded, but that seems the best interpretation. And it is a disturbing position for a leader of the opposition to take.
Miliband has used his opposition to the Iraqi intervention—an opposition which, allegedly, none of his political colleagues remembers him voicing—to cement support from an activist and trade union base which would overwhelmingly agree with him. What he has not done is prompt that base to think.
To give the impression that the world does not face “a real threat” from dictators who seek to acquire WMD is hugely irresponsible. Anyone in serious politics who now wishes to oppose, in retrospect, the Labour government’s decision on Iraq, must give his party an account of how he sees a world in which one of the gravest strategic threats is the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. What’s more, we cannot simply deny the danger that terrorists might seek to use these weapons against civilian populations.