Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Iraq: pro-war MPs draw a line in the sand"

Marginally more embarrassing than Geoff "Buff" Hoon's pathetic performance in the Commons on 18 October was listening to Labour MPs who voted for the Iraq war attacking him. Hoon got a very rough ride from his own side and he deserved it. I bet he wished he hadn't had to cancel his visit to the threatened Kinloss airbase, where he may have got a friendlier reception.

I don't know how the defence minister has the nerve to claim that "no decision had been taken" over sending in British troops to the American zone. It is as clear a case as you can get of Blair's efforts to bolster the Bush campaign, and everyone knows it. Does this government think we are all stupid? Well, yes. What's more, it knows that many of its back-bench MPs are stupid, too. Many chose to believe Blair's claims about weapons of mass destruction. They then voted for the war and have regretted it ever since. Their problem now is admitting they were wrong. That would logically mean shafting their leader. But it's far too late to ditch Blair so close to an election.

Since holding on to their seats is much more important than principles, all they can do is huff and puff, as Andrew Mackinlay did. It was Mackinlay, remember, who lamentably failed in his duty when grilling Dr David Kelly. Now, having supported the war, he tells us that "there is a line to be drawn in the sand here" over sending our boys into the Yanks' battleground. But the decision has already been taken.

So what are Andrew Mackinlay, Gerald Kaufman and all the rest who had a pop at Hoon in last Monday's debate going to do about it? We all know the answer: absolutely nothing.

This article first appeared in the 25 October 2004 issue of the New Statesman, America - God, gays and guns