Iraq war divides Labour leadership candidates

By Alex Stevenson

Labour leadership contenders Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have spoken out against the Iraq war, but only one of them has defended the conflict outright.

Mr Miliband, who also faces challenges from his brother David Miliband and Andy Burnham, said the conflict had led to a “catastrophic loss of trust” for his party.

The former energy and climate change secretary criticised the Iraq war by saying UN weapons inspector Hans Blix should have been given more time to continue his work.

“The combination of not giving the weapons inspectors more time, and then the weapons not being found, I think for a lot of people it led to a catastrophic loss of trust for us, and we do need to draw a line under it,” he said.

Mr Miliband made clear he did not believe the war had been undertaken “for the wrong motives”. Mr Balls, a close ally to Gordon Brown and the ex-children’s secretary, went further by calling the war “a mistake”.

“On the information we had, we shouldn’t have prosecuted the war,” he told the Telegraph newspaper.

“We shouldn’t have changed our argument from international law to regime change in a non-transparent way.

“It was an error for which we as a country paid a heavy price, and for which many people paid with their lives. Saddam Hussein was a horrible man, and I am pleased he is no longer running Iraq. But the war was wrong.”

David Miliband, who as Labour’s final foreign secretary will find it harder to distance himself from the foreign policies of Tony Blair’s government, spoke out about Iraq during the general election campaign.

He said British voters had spent enough time “punishing us” about Iraq – especially as the Conservatives had also backed the 2003 invasion.