Jeremy Corbyn apologises for Iraq War on behalf of Labour
Jeremy Corbyn tonight issued a shock apology for the Iraq War on behalf of the Labour party.
In comments likely to infuriate many of his MPs, he said he was sorry for Tony Blair's "disastrous decision" to authorise military action in 2003.
Mr Corbyn also called on Britain to support moves to give the International Criminal Court "the power to prosecute those responsible for the crime of military aggression" - a thinly-veiled call for Mr Blair to face war crime charges.
He spoke out after meeting with the families of British soldiers and Iraqis who were killed in the war.
The Labour leader said: "Politicians and political parties can only grow stronger by acknowledging when they get it wrong and by facing up to their mistakes.
“So I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq in March 2003.”
He added: “That apology is owed first of all to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and the country is still living with the devastating consequences of the war and the forces it unleashed.
“They have paid the greatest price for the most serious foreign policy calamity of the last 60 years.
“The apology is also owed to the families of those soldiers who died in Iraq or who have returned home injured or incapacitated.
"They did their duty but it was in a conflict they should never have been sent to.
“Finally, it is an apology to the millions of British citizens who feel our democracy was traduced and undermined by the way in which the decision to go to war was taken on the basic of secret ‘I will be with you, whatever’ understandings given to the US president that have now been publicly exposed.”
'WITH YOU WHATEVER'
His comments came after the publication this morning of Sir John Chilcot's devastating report into the way the Iraq war was conducted.
Sir John said Mr Blair had made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein “before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted”.
He was also scathing about the intelligence and legal advice given before the war, along with what he called “wholly inadequate” planning for the post-conflict situation.
While Sir John issued a raft of criticisms of Mr Blair’s government, the most controversial arguably concerns a memo to Mr Bush in July 2002 containing an assurance that “I will be with you, whatever”.
Mr Blair today expressed "sorrow and regret" over the Iraq War - but argued his case for making the decision and insisted he would do it all over again.
In his speech, Mr Corbyn said the war was "an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext ... and has long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion".
He added: "There are many lessons that need to be drawn from the Iraq war and the investigation carried out by the Chilcot Inquiry for our country, government and parliament as well as for my party.
"They include the need for a more open and independent relationship with the United States particularly as we face the prospects of a new and potentially more hawkish presidency and for a foreign policy based on upholding international law and the authority of the United Nations which seeks peaceful solutions to international disputes.
"We also need much stronger oversight of the security and intelligence services full restoration of proper cabinet government and to give parliament the decisive say over any future decision to go to war based on objective information not through government discretion but through a War Powers Act.
"Finally, we need Britain to join the 30 countries including Germany and Spain that already support giving the International Criminal Court the power to prosecute those responsible for the crime of military aggression.
"There are no more important decisions a Member of Parliament ever gets asked to make than those relating to war and peace.
"The very least that MPs and the country should be able to expect is rigorous and objective evidence on which to base their decisions."
Labour MPs tonight reacted angrily to Mr Corbyn's apology.
One senior MP told PoliticsHome: "He didn't have the balls to do it in the chamber today."