Boris Johnson: Tony Blair's Iraq comments 'unhinged'

"My general message would be to put a sock in it really. Paper bag on head time is my advice"

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Boris Johnson has described Tony Blair's argument that the violent insurgency in Iraq has nothing to do with the 2003 invasion as "unhinged".

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Mayor of London says the former prime minister is undermining the case for "serious and effective intervention".

He described the invasion as a "tragic mistake" and a "misbegotten folly".

Mr Blair was prime minister when forces invaded Iraq in 2003 on the basis that it had weapons of mass destruction.

On Sunday, Mr Blair said there would still be a "major problem" in Iraq now even if Saddam Hussein had not been toppled in 2003.

Mr Blair insisted the current crisis was an issue that "affects us all" and urged more western intervention in the area.

Tony Blair says a "toxic mix" of religion and politics has created the situation

"Even if you'd left Saddam in place in 2003, then when 2011 happened - and you had the Arab revolutions going through Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and Bahrain and Egypt and Syria - you would have still had a major problem in Iraq.

"Indeed, you can see what happens when you leave the dictator in place, as has happened with Assad now. The problems don't go away," he said.

The last of Britain's troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011 after eight years.

'Bonkers assertions'

Mr Johnson's comments came as the Iraqi government claimed to have "regained the initiative" against an offensive by Sunni rebels led by ISIS - the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Extremists captured key cities, including Mosul and Tikrit, last week, but several towns have now been retaken from the rebels.

Writing in his weekly column, the Mayor of London said he has "come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad".

He writes: "The Iraq war was a tragic mistake; and by refusing to accept this, Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates - the possibility of serious and effective intervention.

"Blair's argument (if that is the word for his chain of bonkers assertions) is that we were right in 2003, and that we would be right to intervene again.

"Many rightly recoil from that logic. It is surely obvious that the 2003 invasion was a misbegotten folly."

He later writes: "Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it - or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing."

But Labour MP Kevin Brennan said the mayor of London, when he was an MP, had backed military action in Iraq.

"I seem to recall when many of us were voting against war in Iraq in 2003, Boris Johnson was in the other division lobby in the Commons," he tweeted.

'Proxy debate'

Speaking on Monday, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the turmoil in Iraq should not be used as an opportunity for a "proxy debate about Tony Blair and everything he has ever said and done".

Asked in the Commons by the SNP's Angus Robertson whether Mr Blair should resign from his role as a Middle East peace envoy, Mr Hague said this would "not be helpful".

Earlier on Monday, Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was "entirely possible" to argue that "it was the right thing to remove Saddam Hussein but that mistakes were made in the aftermath of that".

He added: "Of course, it is possible to argue that Western intervention makes these problems worse and it is possible to argue the absence of Western intervention makes these things worse.

"Foreign policy is the fine judgement between those things. I think the truth about intervention is that it is only right when it is a last resort and where it either has limited objectives or it has a very comprehensive plan working with regional and local leaders to go with it."

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    06:34: 'UK must support Hong Kong'
    Hong Kong

    The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has urged the government to speak up in support of democracy in Hong Kong or risk damage to the UK's reputation there. The MPs said they were "profoundly disappointed" at ministers' response when China blocked committee members from visiting the former UK colony. Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said the UK wanted democratic "transition". More here.

     
  66.  
    06:28: Greens moot alliance with SNP
    Caroline Lucas

    The Greens are expected to call for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP at their party conference in Liverpool later today.

    Green Party MP and former leader Caroline Lucas will say: "With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.

    "Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we'll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common." More here.

     
  67.  
    06:18: 'England's population up'

    A major analysis by the University of Oxford estimates that the population of England has risen by 565,000 since 2011 because of immigration. The Migration Observatory unit says it came up with the projections because similar official data will not be available before the general election. Two-thirds of the rise is attributed to people from the European Union. We'll bring you all the reaction.

     
  68.  
    06:13: Good morning from Westminster

    Hello and welcome to Friday's political coverage. Nick Eardley and Sarah Weaver will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Thursday unfolded.

     

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