openDemocracyUK

David Miliband can't win a national election because of Iraq

Iraq remains a defining issue of political trust and democracy. The leading candidate in Labour's election has failed to this test.
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
11 September 2010

I see that David Miliband is warning Telegraph readers that while he can win the next election his brother or any other candidate threatens Labour with three terms out of office. My view is that David himself can't win. Whatever his undoubted political qualities he is too implicated in Labour's abuse of the state and failed to take the opportunity to redeem himself when he could have. It's not just that Iraq was a moral issue, it remains a defining political issue. Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, asked me to write a column on this. It turned into a careful argument and you can read it at full length here on their website. There are two key points: by saying he'd not support the war if he had known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq David perpetuates the unprincipled manipulation of opinion that asserts this was the reason for the invasion when it wasn't. Second, and this applies to Ed Balls too, saying that one was "wrong" to have supported the invasion isn't the point. What is needed from one-time supporters is their explanation of why the public as a whole was right when they were not. It is more than 'trust' that is at stake here. It's democracy. The political class might like to think that we should all 'move on' irrespective of right or wrong. I see there is a lot of talk now about the Coulson affair lasting more than "eleven days" - a genuine internalisation of spin-doctor cynicism. Well, Iraq is going to last eleven years.

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