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2 news stories and a comment by one of the British members of parliament
leading the motion to impeach Blair
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MPs plan to impeach Blair over Iraq war record

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12956,1290832,00.html

Read the report (pdf)

Talk about it
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
Thursday August 26, 2004

The Guardian
MPs are planning to impeach Tony Blair for "high crimes and misdemeanours"
in taking Britain to war against Iraq, reviving an ancient practice last
used against Lord Palmerston more than 150 years ago.

Eleven MPs led by Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and
Dinefwr, are to table a motion when parliament returns that will force the
prime minister to appear before the Commons to defend his record in the
run-up to the war.

Nine of the MPs are Welsh and Scottish Nationalists, including the party
leaders, Elfyn Llwyd, and Alex Salmond, and two are Conservative
frontbenchers, Boris Johnson, MP for Henley and editor of the Spectator,
and Nigel Evans, MP for Ribble Valley.

A number of Labour backbenchers are considering whether to back the motion,
though it could mean expulsion from the party.

The MPs' decision follows the commissioning of a 100-page report which lays
out the case for impeaching Mr Blair and the precedents for action,
including arguments laid down in Erskine May, the parliamentary bible, on
impeachments dating back to medieval times.

The authors are Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Newnham College,
Cambridge, and Dan Plesch, honorary fellow of Birkbeck College, London.

Under the ancient right, which has never been repealed, it takes only one
MP to move a motion and the Speaker has to grant a debate on the
impeachment. This means, at the least, Mr Blair will have to face a fresh
debate on his personal handling of the war and there will have to be a vote
in parliament on whether to institute impeachment proceedings.

In effect, impeachments were discontinued after Lord Palmerston, accused of
concluding a secret treaty with Russia, survived an impeachment debate in
1848. The proceedings were replaced with a convention on ministerial
responsibility, with ministers being forced to resign if they misled
parliament. The last two cases involved the Home Office minister Beverley
Hughes, over immigration clearances in Romania and Bulgaria, and Peter
Mandelson over the Hinduja passports affair.

Mr Price said he believed the case was compelling. "To dust off Victorian
constitutional histories and examine precedents from the time of Charles I
and Chaucer may seem bizarre. But the conduct of the prime minister has
left people and parliament with no alternative if we are to preserve the
very basis of democracy."
Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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CommentNow for the politics of last resort - impeach Tony Blair

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/comment/0,12956,1290972,00.html

Having duped us into war, the prime minister must be held to account
Adam Price
Thursday August 26, 2004

The Guardian
New Labour, new politics - that was the promise. In Blair's own words in
his first speech as leader to the Labour party conference: "It means being
open. It means telling it like it is. Let's be honest. Straight. Those most
in need of hope deserve the truth."

Now, almost a decade later, his words sound like self-parody. And yet there
remains a certain resonance about them. Truth is the foundation of
democracy. Without truth, there can be no trust, and without trust,
politics loses its very legitimacy. And that is the tragedy of what has
befallen us all in the last three years of this premiership - alongside the
personal tragedies of the 64 British service personnel and 13,000 Iraqis
who have paid the highest price for what has become the cruellest of
deceptions.

Faced with this charge of having duped us into war, the prime minister
responds with a certain injured innocence: "Are people questioning my
integrity? Are they saying I lied?" Of course, professional communicators
such as the prime minister almost never tell lies. For the most part it's
perfectly easy to mislead the public without resorting to that. As Robin
Cook wrote in his diary, Blair was "far too clever" for that. Rather than
allege there was a real link between Saddam and Bin Laden "he deliberately
crafted a suggestive phrase designed to create the impression that British
troops were going to Iraq to fight a threat from al-Qaida".

There is more than one way not to tell the truth: half-truths, omissions
and deliberate ambiguities can be just as effective as crude lies if the
mission is to mislead. All this would still be in the realm of conjecture,
of course, if it had not been for the death of David Kelly and Bush's
decision to have his own inquiry. Without these unforeseen events we would
never have had access to the information revealed through the Butler and
Hutton inquiries.

But we do. We now know what Blair knew, and when he knew it, and the
contrast with his public statements at the time, which are set out in the
report, A Case To Answer, by Dan Plesch and Glen Rangwala, published today.
It's on the basis of that report that I am prepared to state - unprotected
by parliamentary privilege, unfettered by the rules of parliamentary
language and without equivocation - that the prime minister did not tell
the truth. Instead he exaggerated, distorted, suppressed and manipulated
the information for political ends. This was an organised deception to win
over a sceptical parliament and public to the military action he had long
ago promised his ally Mr Bush.

The evidence for Blair's duplicity is overwhelming. He claimed in early
2002 that Iraq had "stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological
weapons" while the assessment of the joint intelligence committee at the
time was that Iraq "may have hidden small quantities of agents and
weapons". He told the TUC in September 2002 that Saddam "had enough
chemical and biological weapons remaining to devastate the entire Gulf
region", while the intelligence assessment was that "Saddam has not
succeeded in seriously threatening his neighbours".

Blair displayed the most despicable cynicism of all when he warned that "it
is a matter of time, unless we act and take a stand before terrorism and
weapons of mass destruction come together", even though the government was
later forced to admit to the Butler inquiry that "the JIC assessed that any
collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and
biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of
terrorists, and that the prime minister was aware of this". He knew the
nightmare scenario he painted would be more, not less, likely if we invaded
Iraq, yet he gave the opposite impression to translate anxiety into support
for the war.

If he was guilty of mismanagement, miscalculation or mere mistakes then the
proper place to hold him to account would be the ballot box. Deliberate
misrepresentation, however, is what marks this prime minister out. When
Peter Mandelson caused "incorrect information" to be given to the house,
and Beverley Hughes admitted giving a "misleading impression", they
resigned in accordance with the ministerial code, which states: "Ministers
who knowingly mislead parliament will be expected to offer their
resignation to the prime minister". Unfortunately, the code is silent on
what to do with a miscreant prime minister.

His refusal to resign in the face of such evidence is unprecedented. There
are strong indications, detailed in the report, that he made a secret
agreement with President Bush which is illegal under constitutional law.
Yet there are to be no further enquiries, no further comment from the prime
minister, and no hope of ever seeing the attorney general's full advice. A
motion of no confidence would simply divide the house on party lines and
fail to focus on the actions of Blair. And, as John Baron MP recently
discovered, accusing another member of misleading the house is deemed
"unparliamentary".

Accountability is the lifeblood of democracy. Why should the public bother
getting involved in politics if ministers can lead us into war on a false
prospectus and not even utter a single word of apology? So what remedy do
parliament and people have in these desperate circumstances? Historically,
impeachment has been used by parliament against individuals to punish "high
crimes and misdemeanours".

One MP is all it takes to make the accusation of high crimes and
misdemeanours against a public official for an impeachment process to
begin. Once an MP has presented his or her evidence of misconduct to the
Commons in a debate, and if a majority of elected members agree there is a
case to answer, a committee of MPs is established to draw up articles of
impeachment, which will list each charge individually. The case goes before
the Lords.

Three centuries ago the Commons called impeachment "the chief institution
for the preservation of the government". It has been a key weapon in the
long struggle of parliament against the abuse of executive power. It has
been revived before, after long periods of disuse, when the executive's
hold on power-without-responsibility seemed every bit as total as today.

Today a number of MPs, including myself, are declaring our intention to
bring a Commons' motion of impeachment against the prime minister in
relation to the invasion of Iraq. This is the first time in more than 150
years that such a motion has been brought against a minister of the crown,
and it is clearly not an undertaking we enter into lightly. We do it with
regret, but also with resolve. For our first duty is to the people we
represent, who feel they were misled, whose trust was betrayed, who have
been placed in harm's way by the irresponsible actions of this prime
minister. It is in their name that we impeach him. It is in their name, and
with all the authority vested in us, that we implore him now to go.

 Adam Price is Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

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Booth's chambers will help impeach Blair over Iraq war

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12956,1292084,00.html

David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
Friday August 27, 2004

The Guardian
Cherie Booth's chambers, Matrix, are to draw up the document to impeach her
husband, Tony Blair, for "high crimes and misdemeanours" in the run up to
the war against Iraq, it was disclosed yesterday.

The 12 MPs planning to revive the ancient parliamentary procedure - last
used 156 years ago against Lord Palmerston - have engaged his wife's
chambers to frame the motion because of their record in taking up human
rights issues.

Two of Ms Booth's colleagues will be working on the motion. One, Rabinder
Singh, is of equal status to the PM's wife, being a QC and a deputy high
court judge.

He recently brought a case arguing that the Iraq war breached international
law.

The other is Conor Gearty, professor of human rights at the London School
of Economics and a founder partner of Matrix. He recently took a case
against the Ministry of Defence over a personal injury claim.

He is also an expert on terrorism, having written and contributed to books
on the subject.

Yesterday Elfyn Llwyd, leader of Plaid Cymru, a lawyer and one of the MPs
bringing the impeachment, said: "Matrix will not be doing this work on a
pro bono basis, they will receive a full fee. Cherie Booth will of course
will be ruled out as it would be a conflict of interest."

Matrix Chambers said it was not making any comment about its work on the
impeachment of one its member's spouses referring all calls to a public
interest rights solicitor in Birmingham.

The framing of the motion will be crucial to bringing the case. The aim is
to put the motion on the parliamentary order paper and leave one MP to
raise the matter with the Speaker.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP who initiated the process, said: "The
precedent is absolutely clear that if one MP has expressed a desire to
speak on an impeachment motion there has to be a debate. It would be
unprecedented for there not to be a debate on an impeachment motion."

It was disclosed that the House of Commons authorities have ruled that MPs
can use public money - their researchers' allowances - to fund the
impeachment process as it is a legitimate parliamentary procedure.
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