LIBERAL DEMOCRATS – IRAQ – 17 May 2004

[Mr Paul Keetch (Hereford) (LD): … My party has been criticised for treating Iraq as an election issue, but when I knock on doors I discover, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) said, that Iraq is an issue that we are right to put before the British people; suggestions from Labour Back Benchers and even Conservative spokesmen that we should not do so in the forthcoming elections are ridiculous. … ]

Dr Julian Lewis: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

[Mr Keetch: No, I will not.]

[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Bill Rammell): … I was interested and intrigued to listen to the arguments of the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr Keetch). In summing up the debate, he made it explicitly clear that the Liberal Democrats are seeking to use the war as an electoral issue in the forthcoming elections. In that regard, I am indebted to Conservative Members for reminding me that the leader of the Liberal Party recently made clear his intention not to use that issue during the forthcoming campaign. No one should be surprised at such discontinuity between different members of the Liberal Opposition.]

Dr Lewis: I can confirm that the leader of the Liberal Democrats made that commitment on the "Politics Show" on 9 May, which only goes to show that a week is a very long time in politics, especially if one is a Liberal Democrat.

[Mr Rammell: I wholly concur with that view.]