Labour MPs Argue Over Iraq War As Tony Blair Accused Of ‘Bribing’ Backbenchers To Support Invasion

Austin, the MP for Dudley North, reacted with anger after Flynn told the Commons: 

“We know that during that debate, 139 of my comrades on the Labour benches voted against the war – a courageous thing to do because we were under great pressure.

“But there were 50 others who had grave doubts about the war and they were, in my view, bribed, bullied, bamboozled into voting the wrong way and many of them regretted it very much since.”

Flynn, a veteran Labour MP who until recently served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, clarified his comments and said he did not mean MPs had been paid money to vote in favour of war.

“There is such thing as political bribes, with inducements and offers, we are well aware. There was avery heavy pressure here to vote for war,” he said.

Flynn told the Commons MPs were “misled” by Blair into backing his decision to join the US-led invasion. 

The clash came as MPs prepared to vote on whether to trigger a parliamentary investigation into whether Blair did mislead MPs in the run-up to the conflict.

Led by the SNP, the Commons motion was backed by the Greens, Plaid Cymru, Tory MP Sir David Amess, and Labour’s Kate Hoey.

The debate has split Labour. Jeremy Corbyn, a harsh critic of the invasion, rejected pleas from his backbenchers that Labour MPs be forced to vote against condemning Blair.

The Labour leader decided to impose only a one-line whip on his MPs for the vote – meaning they were not obliged to attend. And Corbyn himself missed the vote.

Alex Salmond, who led the debate, said Corbyn would be “joining” SNP MPs in voting against Blair if he was able. “What Iraq demonstrates is that currently at least there are no effective checks and balances in our system,” Salmond said. “The prime minister had the ability to create the circumstances in which this house followed him into an illegal conflict.”

Labour shadow foreign affairs minister, Fabian Hamilton, who voted against the invasion, accused the SNP of trying to “scapegoat” Blair for the collective failure of the British foreign policy establishment. 

“I voted against our government because I thought our prime minister was simply wrong. But never for one second did I believe he was acting in bad faith and I do not do so now,” Hamilton said of Blair.

Austin, who today clashed with Flynn, recently heckled Corbyn in the Commons, telling the Labour leader to “shut up”, as he criticised Blair during a parliamentary speech.

Article source: