Clegg takes Iraq war message to New York

By Ian Dunt

Nick Clegg has launched into a thinly-veiled attack on Britain and America’s decision to invade Iraq while visiting New York.

The deputy prime minister, who is enjoying the most high-profile and important diplomatic negotiations of his career, told the UN general assembly that Britain would once again be known for its sense of justice and fairness.

“Britain will stand as a beacon of democracy, freedom and law,” he said.

“Many of the values that must be at the heart of a new global settlement are in our national DNA – tolerance, fairness, democracy, equality before the law.

“But our approach will also be hard-headed and realistic. In recent years, we have learned – sometimes the hard way – that democracy cannot be created by diktat. Freedom cannot be commanded into existence.”

The passage is being treated as a clear allusion to the Iraq war, which the Liberal Democrats condemned.

Mr Clegg explicitly said the Iraq war was illegal during PMQs recently, while standing in for David Cameron – although Downing Street quickly distanced itself from the comment.

“The new coalition government, now five months old, will restore Britain’s international reputation by pursuing a hard-headed foreign policy based on liberal values,” Mr Clegg added.

Foreign secretary William Hague sat in the audience during the speech.

The deputy prime minister is in New York in Mr Cameron’s place because the timing of the summit was originally expected to clash with his paternity leave.