While I deeply deprecate the LibDem policy, announced this morning, of withdrawing all British troops from Iraq by the end of October, Ming Campbell scored a direct hit at PMQs with his follow up question. He almost spat it out...
"If he feels so strongly why doesn't the Prime Minister stay and debate the subject"
Or words to that effect. Blair replied rather lamely that he was debating it now. It really is a disgrace that Tony Blair hasn't taken part in a debate on Iraq in the Commons for years.
But back to the LibDem policy of withdrawing all British troops from Iraq by October, I have to say this is one of the most irresponsible policy announcements I have heard from them for a long time - and that's saying something. It sends all the wrong signals to those in Iraq who rely on British troops to keep the peace and undermines their authority. Naturally we shold be arguing for a phased withdrawal when the job is complete, but it is impossible to argue that our mission in Iraq has been completed - or is anywhere near being completed. Now is not the time to make publicity seeking gestures.
UPDATE: 2.25pm. A lot of people have left comments accusing me of this, that and the other, so let me address the various points raised here, just to make my position clear. If we pull out now we will exacerbate the danger of a full scale civil war. If that cannot be described as 'irresponsible' I don't know what would. The 'mission' I refer to above is to gradually restore order and bring about a situation where people can safely go about their business and the Iraqi Police and security forces are capable of keeping the peace. That point has not arrived. When it does, no one will be happier than me. To say we should pull out in a matter of months leaving the Iraqis to their own devices is the equivalent of moral cowardice. Whatever one thought of the reasons for invading the country in the first place, we are where we are. Wishful thinking and hindsight are wonderful things, but are not what I am seeking to debate in this post. INAMICUS asks what the Tory strategy is in the debate today. I suggest he watches the debate. ANYONEBUTBLAIR asks what is the exit strategy for our troops. He says: "If Shias want to kill Sunnis and Sunnis want to kill Shias then let them get on with it and not stand impotently in the middle dodging the bullets. I am utterly ashamed to be English and to have Blair as PM." Let's bear in mind that none of this would be happening if we hadn't invaded in the first place. We are there now and have to live with the situation as it is rather than what we would like it to be. What about all the Iraqis who are't shooting each other and just want to live in peace. Do we not have a responsibility to them? Blair and Bush did this in our name. Many of you may not have agreed with it at the time and still don't now. But to bring our troops home now would just be to abandon these people to a situation of absolute carnage. LEON thinks I am a Neo Con. Not true, but a debate for another occasion. Sorry to have gone on in some detail on this, but it is so important and I wanted to make my position clear.