articles on Tony Blair's coalition building for the war with Iraq.
compiled from web for academic purposes only, by Jeremy Lewis, 23 Feb. 2003.
Secret poll on US war plans worries BlairBy Benedict Brogan, Political Correspondent
Secret polling commissioned by Tony Blair last month
has added to Government anxiety about its ability to
win public and Cabinet support for American-led
military action against Iraq.
The Prime Minister, who has told Cabinet colleagues
that war "is a long way off", has been unsettled by
the results of a survey he commissioned which
shows deep-seated unease among voters about
Ministers and Mr Blair's senior policy advisers are
understood to be frustrated by Washington's failure
to produce a plan of action against Saddam Hussein.
Mr Blair asked Philip Gould, his pollster, to sample
opinion using focus groups last month. It is
understood he was told that, among British voters,
President George W Bush is more unpopular than
The finding will be seized on by those in Labour who
argue against Britain joining war against Iraq
without a new United Nations resolution to justify
The consensus in Whitehall remains that any strike
is still several months away and will have to wait for
the outcome of the American mid-term congressional
elections in early November.
Yesterday Tony Lloyd, the former Foreign Office
minister, joined those questioning the legality of an
attack on Iraq and calling for UN weapons inspectors
to be sent back to the country.
Writing in the New Statesman magazine, he asked
why Mr Blair has still not published the dossier of
evidence on the threat posed by Saddam's
acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.
"Months ago, there was talk of a dossier damning
Saddam and his regime. But it is clear that there is
not enough hard evidence to condemn Iraq, or we
would have acted by now," he wrote. "So we must
call Saddam's bluff and demand that the weapons
inspectors go back with the remit to do their job
properly, and according to UN resolutions."
He claimed that Mr Bush had no legal grounds for
removing Saddam. "There is no legal basis for
regime change. How could there be, when it gives
carte blanche to superpowers everywhere to kick
out whatever regimes they fall out with?"
He added: "These are desperately serious issues,
not intellectual parlour games, and we have got to
have proper answers. If these are not forthcoming
and Britain drifts into a war there will be an
enormous outcry, certainly among backbench Labour
MPs, and much more widely among a public whose
revenge takes place at the ballot box."
Last night the Conservatives added their voice to
the calls for a recall of Parliamentif a decision is
taken on military action during the summer recess.
David Davis, the shadow secretary for the office of
the deputy prime minister, said the threat posed by
Iraq raised serious questions. "At present we are
keeping the option of a parliamentary recall under
review," he said.
"However, the Conservative Party recognises the
importance of accountability within Government. If
the Prime Minister makes a decision on committing
troops he should recall Parliament to debate the
matter. So far we have seen no evidence to suggest
that such a decision has been made."
Downing Street said there had been no change in
the position set out by Mr Blair last month, that the
"point of decision" has not been reached, and that
he would not be "pinned down" on a specific form of
Earlier, Tam Dalyell, the Father of the House, again
demanded a pledge from Mr Blair to consult
Parliament before committing British forces to an
attack on Iraq.
31 July 2002: Unions tell Blair: no war on Iraq
18 March 2002: Short leads backlash against 'reckless' attitude
Tony Blair and Labour will suffer a potentially
catastrophic loss of support if Britain joins American
military action against Iraq, a poll commissioned by
The Telegraph says today.
More than two-thirds of British voters
believe that a potential attack on
Saddam Hussein is not justified in
present circumstances, according to the
internet pollster YouGov.
The survey shows that Labour voters
would reconsider their support for the
Government if Mr Blair sent troops into action
It found widespread unease about President George
Bush's ability to handle the crisis. More than half
feared that Mr Blair was becoming Mr Bush's
Saddam Hussein urged Mr Blair yesterday to
distance himself from America and adopt a more
"independent" approach towards Iraq.
"We will never surrender," the dictator said.
The YouGov findings seem to confirm private surveys
carried out for Mr Blair - and denied by No 10 -
suggesting that he would have to pay a heavy price
at the ballot box if he took Britain into war. Downing
Street insisted last week: "The Prime Minister is not
More than a third of Labour supporters lack
confidence in Mr Blair's ability to handle the crisis
and say they would lose sympathy with the
Government if America launched a military strike
against Saddam with British support.
The findings coincide with a warning from Maurice
Fitzpatrick, the head of economics at Tenon, the
professional services group, that the consequences
of military action could dent the prospects for
He said: "If growth over the next four years were to
be less than the Chancellor's forecast by just half of
one per cent because of a war, the impact would
leave a £12 billion black hole in the annual accounts
by 2006. This worry must be pressing in on Gordon
The YouGov poll found that three-quarters of
respondents believed that Saddam was a threat to
But there was widespread doubt about whether
American action to topple him would succeed: only
13 per cent thought it would; three times as many
thought the chances were "poor".
Sixty-two per cent of respondents thought that
military action could result in a wider war in the
Middle East and 90 per cent feared Islamic terrorist
retaliation against the West.
A majority of Britons do not trust President Bush's
judgment, the survey shows.
Two-thirds of those interviewed said they had "not
much confidence" (40 per cent) or "no confidence at
all" (28 per cent) in Mr Bush's capacity to handle the
crisis wisely. Only five per cent had "a great deal of
Mr Blair fared slightly better. More than 40 per cent
said they had "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of
confidence in his ability to deal with Iraq. But more
than 50 per cent had either "not much confidence"
or "none at all".
Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign
affairs spokesman, said: "A prime minister who goes
to war without the knowledge that he has the
security of public opinion behind him is taking a very
Mr Blair faced a renewed Labour call for conciliatory
gestures towards Iraq.
George Galloway, the Left-wing MP with close ties to
Baghdad, said that if Britain were prepared to
restore relations with Col Gaddafi in Libya despite
his links with the IRA, the murder of Wpc Yvonne
Fletcher and the Lockerbie bombing, it should be
willing to hold talks with Saddam about allowing
weapons inspectors into Iraq.
Referring to last week's visit to Libya by Mike
O'Brien, the Foreign Office minister, he said: "If it is
good enough for a British minister to kiss Gaddafi,
surely we can pick up the olive branch and test the
sincerity of Iraq's offer?"
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: "The point about
Saddam Hussein is that we are seeking to resolve
all this through the United Nations. But how many
Security Council resolutions has he failed to
implement or broken - 20 out of 23?
"It is a serious problem. We need to tackle the issue
of weapons of mass destruction. He needs to let the
weapons inspectors in."
10 August 2002: Blair not wobbling on Iraq, says aide
9 August 2002: Secret poll on US war plans worries Blair
8 August 2002: Britain brings Gaddafi in from cold
8 August 2002: War with Iraq a long way off, Blair tells
26 July 2002: War on Iraq not imminent, says Blair
12 July 2002: British spies in Iraq to incite revolt
You're losing the party over Iraq, Cabinet warns BlairBy Francis Elliott, Susan Bisset and Sean Rayment
Tony Blair has been warned by Cabinet ministers
that he must take urgent steps to "sell" his military
strategy on Iraq as he faces the threat of rebellion
from Labour MPs and party members.
The Prime Minister is being urged to "hit the road"
and undertake a nationwide tour explaining the
need for military action to counter the growing
threat of mass defections from party activists.
The stark message was delivered to the Prime
Minister last week by three of his most intimate
allies in the Cabinet: Tessa Jowell, the Culture
Secretary, Hilary Armstrong, the Chief Whip, and
Helen Liddell, the Scottish Secretary. Their warning
over the scale of the revolt facing Mr Blair was
supported by a Telegraph survey of Labour Party
constituency chairmen which suggests that
thousands of members will quit the party if Britain
invades Iraq without a specific UN mandate.
Of 74 chairmen contacted, 69 per cent predicted that
war with Iraq would prompt resignations among
local members and five per cent admitted that they
themselves would considering quitting. The survey
also found that 89 per cent of chairmen opposed a
war without a further UN resolution sanctioning the
use of force against Saddam Hussein.
The extent of the damage already inflicted on
Labour's membership will be revealed in official
figures due out this spring. They are expected to
show a further dramatic decline from the current
official total of 270,000, down from a high of 405,000
One Cabinet minister said: "Tony really needs to do
more to sell this to the party. A number of us have
told him that he needs to hit the road and actually
speak to members directly."
Mr Blair has said that he is "too busy" to undertake
a nationwide roadshow on Iraq. However, the scale
of his task in winning political support was
underlined last night as senior MPs and military
officers warned him that he did not have a mandate
to go to war. Donald Anderson, the chairman of the
Commons foreign affairs committee, said: "In a
democracy one needs public backing for any war and
the reality is that the public is still unconvinced."
Mr Anderson also served notice on the Prime
Minister that MPs would rebel unless there was a
second UN resolution explicitly authorising the use of
force. "Parliamentary opinion needs facts and needs
to be convinced that any action is in accordance with
international law which means, in effect, a second
UN Security Council resolution."
The unease over a possible invasion without a
second UN resolution extends to senior military
officers. One told The Telegraph: "The country
doesn't have the stomach for a war in Iraq at the
moment and frankly neither do many senior officers.
"That feeling will persist until it is clear there is no
other option and all diplomatic courses have been
exhausted. That means having the backing of the
Mr Blair will attempt to regain the political initiative
when he meets Hans Blix, the head of the UN
weapons inspectors, at No 10 on Friday. In an effort
to persuade the public of the need for action,
Downing Street is to press Mr Blix to give further
details of how Saddam is attempting to thwart
inspectors. "We have to be clear that the onus is on
Saddam to be pro-active in helping the inspectors,
not to be negative," the Prime Minister's spokesman
Mr Blair was in Hanover last night for private talks
with Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor,
aimed at ending German opposition to military
intervention. Germany took over one of the rotating
seats on the UN Security Council this month. Their
talks came as Donald Rumsfeld, the United States
defence secretary, signed a deployment order
sending a further 35,000 American troops to the Gulf
region - the biggest single addition so far to the
build-up of allied forces encircling Iraq. The troops
will be in place by the end of the month, giving the
Pentagon a combined land, naval and air strength
11 January 2003: Blair warns America of Muslim backlash over
war on Iraq
10 January 2003: Blair calls for time over Iraq as 'no smoking
7 January 2003: Mobilisation statement today as paras get set
for desert war
9 January 2003: Britain urges US to delay war until autumn
12 August 2002: Attack on Iraq rejected by 2 in 3 voters
9 August 2002: Secret poll on US war plans worries Blair
22 July 2002: Emergency talks over Labour's £8m debts
The Pope took the unusual step of inviting Tony and
Cherie Blair to a private Mass in the Vatican yesterday, a
move that marks Mrs Blair's entry into the ranks of
Britain's most influential Roman Catholics.
The invitation to the service, conducted by the 82-year-old Pontiff in the presence of the Blairs and four seminarians, surprised observers on the final day of a secretive weekend visit to Rome by the Prime Minister, his wife and some of their children.
It is the first time that a serving British prime minister has
attended a private Mass with the Pope. The honour is
rarely granted to political figures, and they are usually
The Mass took place in the Vatican at 7.30am yesterday.
The family spent considerably more time in the Vatican
over the weekend than most VIP visitors would expect,
enjoying an audience with the Pope on Saturday. Their
stay also included tours of the papal city's museums and
the Sistine Chapel.
Downing Street has sought to play down the diplomatic
significance of the visit, which is believed to have been
arranged some time ago by Mrs Blair.
Nevertheless, the Pope used the audience on Saturday to
spell out his opposition to a war against Iraq, describing it
as morally unjust.
A source close to the Vatican said: "I don't think there is
any political message connected to Mr Blair in this
invitation, but rather a personal one that is full of respect
for the lady."
23 February 2003: Blair tells Pope: 'Only Saddam can stop the
19 February 2003: 'Holy Father understands war as a last resort'
19 February 2003: Prime Minister to meet Pope
15 February 2003: Aziz asks Pope to mediate for peace
26 December 2002: Pope urges end to war and 'spiral of
Tony Blair will seek to head off a substantial Labour
revolt over war with Iraq tomorrow by telling MPs
that he is embarking on a "last push for peace".
In a statement to Parliament,
he will say there is still a
window of opportunity for
Saddam Hussein to comply
with United Nations'
demands and disarm - before
force is used.
On Wednesday, the
Commons will hold what is
expected to be the last vote
before likely military action is
taken next month.
Labour opponents of war said last night they were
determined to use the occasion to register their
opposition to the use of force as they doubted
whether they would get another chance to vote until
after the troops had been sent in.
Wednesday's debate will be on a carefully worded
Government motion backing its efforts to disarm
Saddam through the UN. It will not refer to military
action, and ministers stressed that it should not be
seen as a vote on whether or not to go to war.
Between 50 and 100 Labour MPs are believed to be
ready to vote against the Government or abstain.
Labour critics and the Liberal Democrats hope to
table their own anti-war amendment, but they may
not be called by the Speaker, Michael Martin.
Clare Short, the International Development
Secretary, said yesterday said she could accept
"carefully targeted" military action against Iraq if it
was backed by the UN. She told GMTV's Sunday
Programme that although she was having "sleepless
nights" over the possibility of war, the Government
had to have the "stomach" to do what was right for
the Iraqi people.
Mr Blair will tell MPs that he has no desire for conflict,
and that his commitment to a second resolution
underlines his determination to exhaust every
means possible to deliver a peaceful outcome.
Downing Street made clear last night that the
diplomatic end game was in sight, with the second
UN resolution being tabled either today or tomorrow
and a final report from Hans Blix, the chief UN
weapons inspector, by next week at the latest.
Officials said it would set out in clear terms the
consequences of failure to disarm. Between it being
tabled and voted on by early to mid-March, Saddam
had a "window to go through".
British officials are concerned that the recent
wrangling in the UN Security Council has led Saddam
to believe that the international community is
divided, and that he can continue to "string the UN
John Major, prime minister during the 1991 Gulf war,
today gives warning that Saddam could try to create
"Armageddon" if he is attacked by Britain and
Writing in The Telegraph, he says the Iraqi leader,
believing that he had nothing to lose, could use
biological and chemical weapons against the
invading army, Saudi Arabia or Israel in a
He might also leave as his legacy a gift of weapons
of mass destruction to terror groups, so that they
might strike against America and its allies for years
22 February 2003: Blix's list of key questions could be trigger for
20 February 2003: Britons are told to leave Iraq
19 February 2003: Blair stakes his future on Iraq war
18 February 2003: Talk of war dents Blair's popularity
18 February 2003: Britain and US prepare final warning on war
25 January 2003: Blair braces the Cabinet for its toughest year
12 January 2003: You're losing the party over Iraq, Cabinet
21 November 2002: Straw fights revolt over vote on Iraq
Tony Blair has suffered a dramatic loss in popularity
since preparing for war on Iraq with his personal
rating sinking to minus 20 per cent, according to a
This means a drop since last month of 26 per cent.
The only consolation for Mr Blair is that Iain Duncan
Smith remains even more unpopular on minus 23 per
Charles Kennedy, the Lib-Dem leader, who has
criticised the Labour and Conservatives' policy on
Iraq, has a rating of plus 21 per cent.
Guardian/ICM poll shows for the first time a
majority - 52 per cent - now oppose a war. Just 29
per cent support military action. [Local]
There is more bad news for Labour, whose lead over
the Conservatives has been cut by five points from
13 to eight per cent since last month.
Facing mounting criticism over Iraq, Mr Blair told
Labour delegates last week that leaders sometimes
had to accept unpopularity if they were to take the
right decisions for their countries.
The poll offered little satisfaction to the
Conservatives who rose only one per cent to 31 per
cent as Labour fell. The Liberal Democrats also
jumped one per cent to 22 per cent. Other parties
increased by four per cent.
In a similar poll conducted for the same newspaper
in December, Mr Blair's personal rating had fallen to
minus one - the first time it had reached negative
territory since the petrol crisis two years earlier.