Has Clegg broken his own manifesto pledge on Iran?

Lib Dem leader ignores manifesto pledge explicitly opposing military action against Iran.

Nick Clegg has given an interview to The House magazine in which he's questioned about the increasing possibility of a pre-emptive strike by Israel against Iran. Asked if Britain would participate in military action, he replies:

It depends entirely on what Iran's intentions are. I think of course you don't in a situation like this take any options off the table. When you are in a major stand off with a country which appears to have a sort of hostile intent on these issues, of course you don't do that. But equally we have been very very clear that we are straining every single sinew to resolve this through a combination of pressure and engagement.

His assertion that no options should be taken "off the table" is notable because unlike Labour and the Conservatives, the Lib Dems explicitly opposed military action in their election manifesto. The pledge read:

[W]e oppose military action against Iran and believe those calling for such action undermine the growing reform movement in Iran.

At the time, when foreign policy was far from most politicians' minds, Clegg probably thought little of the promise. But it could become a millstone around his neck. The Lib Dems, a party with a strong pacifist wing, would likely oppose any attack on Iran.

Clegg would probably argue that events have moved on since May 2010 or point out that the Lib Dems are in coalition. But at a time when he's pursuing a differentiation strategy in other areas, most Lib Dems will be dismayed by his equivocation.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images/Christopher Furlong
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A dozen defeated parliamentary candidates back Caroline Flint for deputy

Supporters of all the leadership candidates have rallied around Caroline Flint's bid to be deputy leader.

Twelve former parliamentary candidates have backed Caroline Flint's bid to become deputy leader in an open letter to the New Statesman. Dubbing the Don Valley MP a "fantastic campaigner", they explain that why despite backing different candidates for the leadership, they "are united in supporting Caroline Flint to be Labour's next deputy leader", who they describe as a "brilliant communicator and creative policy maker". 

Flint welcomed the endorsement, saying: "our candidates know better than most what it takes to win the sort of seats Labour must gain in order to win a general election, so I'm delighted to have their support.". She urged Labour to rebuild "not by lookin to the past, but by learning from the past", saying that "we must rediscover Labour's voice, especially in communities wher we do not have a Labour MP:".

The Flint campaign will hope that the endorsement provides a boost as the campaign enters its final days.

The full letter is below:

There is no route to Downing Street that does not run through the seats we fought for Labour at the General Election.

"We need a new leadership team that can win back Labour's lost voters.

Although we are backing different candidates to be Leader, we are united in supporting Caroline Flint to be Labour's next deputy leader.

Not only is Caroline a fantastic campaigner, who toured the country supporting Labour's candidates, she's also a brilliant communicator and creative policy maker, which is exactly what we need in our next deputy leader.

If Labour is to win the next election, it is vital that we pick a leadership team that doesn't just appeal to Labour Party members, but is capable of winning the General Election. Caroline Flint is our best hope of beating the Tories.

We urge Labour Party members and supporters to unite behind Caroline Flint and begin the process of rebuilding to win in 2020.

Jessica Asato (Norwich North), Will Straw (Rossendale and Darween), Nick Bent (Warrington South), Mike Le Surf (South Basildon and East Thurrock), Tris Osborne (Chatham and Aylesford), Victoria Groulef (Reading West), Jamie Hanley (Pudsey), Kevin McKeever (Northampton South), Joy Squires (Worcester), Paul Clark (Gillingham and Rainham), Patrick Hall (Bedford) and Mary Wimbury (Aberconwy)

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.