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Posted: 8/25/2004 8:16:26 PM EST

MPs launch bid to impeach Blair


AN AUDACIOUS bid to impeach Tony Blair for misleading Parliament over the reasons for the war in Iraq will be launched by MPs today.

The cross-party group say they have rock-solid academic backing for their attempt to invoke an ancient mechanism that could unseat the Prime Minister.

This latest assault on Mr Blair’s integrity is being led by the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalists together with a Conservative MP, but it is expected that other Tories and Liberal Democrats will sign up along with disaffected Labour backbenchers.

The power of impeachment has not been used in Britain for 150 years, but it remains on the statute book despite an attempt to erase it in 1999.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader at Westminster and the favourite to succeed John Swinney as overall Nationalist leader, will spearhead the campaign, along with Tory MP Boris Johnson and Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, at its public launch in London today.

Mr Price said: "The Prime Minister’s deliberate and repeated distortion of the truth has destroyed our reputation for honesty around the world.

"It has produced a war with no end in sight, it has damaged and discredited the intelligence services which are essential to the security of the state, it has undermined the constitution by weakening cabinet government to breaking point; and it has made a mockery of Parliament as representatives of the people.

"As the major report we publish today conclusively demonstrates, the Prime Minister’s statements about Iraq’s weapons in the run-up to the war simply were not true, and there was British intelligence and UN evidence available to the Prime Minister at the time he made these statements showing them to be false. In other words, we were duped.

"Faced with such compelling evidence of deliberate deception which is outlined in our report, it is simply unprecedented for a Minister to refuse to resign.

"This is why we are today announcing our intention to impeach the Prime Minister in relation to the invasion of Iraq."

Two academics have worked on the MPs’ behalf to explore if Mr Blair could be impeached.

Cambridge-based Glen Ranwala and Dan Plesch, who has also published damning accounts of how the government distorted its evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, have concluded the process is possible.

The academics have dissected the Hutton and Butler reports to expose what they claim are examples of the Prime Minister exaggerating or ignoring intelligence service advice.

The plan to impeach the Prime Minister appears, ostensibly, to be a party political stunt.

It will resurrect the issue of the Prime Minister’s integrity over Iraq during the quiet summer recess and keep the issue in the public eye.

Mr Salmond and Mr Johnson believe they have found an opportunity to use old parliamentary processes to keep the pressure on Mr Blair and they are determined to use it.

It is unlikely, however, to lead to Mr Blair’s impeachment - simply because of the large amount of official research and investigation which has already gone into the issue.

The MPs supporting the bid claim the public is weary after two inquiries, both sponsored by the government, found Mr Blair and other senior ministers not guilty of misleading them over Iraq. Both the Hutton and the Butler reports exonerated Mr Blair, but the evidence given to both inquiries has helped Mr Ranwala and Mr Plesch compile their dossier that could lead to an historic attempt to impeach Mr Blair.
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