Clegg’s Iraq jibe fuels coalition tensions

By staff

Nick Clegg risked alienating his coalition partners as he attacked the Iraq war as “illegal” in his first ever prime minister’s questions.

No 10 quickly distanced itself from the statement. The Conservatives voted with Labour MPs to back the invasion seven years ago, while the Liberal Democrats opposed it.

“I do not believe the coalition government has a specific view on the legality of the Iraq war,” the prime minister’s spokesman said, adding that Mr Clegg was expressing a personal view.

The deputy prime minister, the first Liberal politician to have spoken for the government at PMQs since David Lloyd George in the 1920s, made the controversial comment without prompting on the issue from shadow justice secretary Jack Straw.

“I am happy to account for everything that we are doing in this coalition government-a coalition government who have brought together two parties, working in the national interest, to sort out the mess that he left behind,” he said.

“We may have to wait for his memoirs, but perhaps one day he will account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq.”

The Lib Dems have struggled to maintain a clear party identity since the formation of the coalition government, prompting frustration from MPs about the decision to enter into a formal deal with the Conservatives.

Mr Clegg’s comment is likely to boost their morale – even as it riles Tory politicians.