It was during his Labour leadership campaign that Jeremy Corbyn pledged to apologise for the Iraq war. This afternoon, at Church House in Westminster, he delivered on that promise. He 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.
“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.”
Corbyn’s remarks go further than those of Ed Miliband, who said in his 2010 Labour conference speech that the invasion was “wrong” but did not apologise. Angela Eagle, who voted for the war, will likely now face pressure to do so if she challenges Corbyn for the leadership.
Corbyn, who left without taking questions from the media, also stated that the war “has long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion.” Though he did not mention Tony Blair by name, he called for the International Criminal Court to be given “the power to prosecute those responsible for the crime of military aggression.” His apology for the war was condemned by Labour MP Mike Gapes, a foreign affairs select committee member, who tweeted: “Party conference and PLP never been asked to apologise. Jeremy did not apologise in his statement in parliament. Why not? Not in my name.”