45 Labour MSPs fail to back Blair on Iraq

Monday, 24 February 2003 05:29 by: Anonymous
By Alan Crawford and Douglas Fraser
Sunday Herald UK

Sunday 23 February 2003

A clear majority of Labour MSPs have failed to back Prime Minister Tony Blair's stance on Iraq.

Given the opportunity to express unity with the Prime Minister, 45 Labour members either refused to comment or failed to respond to a Sunday Herald survey of all 129 members of the Scottish parliament.

The extent of Labour unease on the issue highlights the problems the party faces in its election campaign -- particularly when it is the issue MSPs admit is most frequently coming up on the doorsteps.

The SNP meanwhile clarified its stance on Iraq in the face of Labour accusations that nationalists portrayed themselves as anti-war yet supported military action if a second UN resolution were passed.

SNP health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon used yesterday's Sunday Herald Debate on Iraq to argue that the SNP would support military action only if a second resolution based on hard evidence was passed specifically mandating war.

Meanwhile, Whitehall sources, after a day of tense private discussions between senior Labour figures, strenuously denied a newspaper report yesterday claiming that Jack McConnell had rebuffed 'repeated pressure from members of Tony Blair's cabinet' to put back the Holyrood elections from May 1 to avoid any damaging political fall-out in Scotland from Blair's stance on Iraq.

Sources close to John Reid, Gordon Brown and Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell denied that pressure had been applied, or even that discussions had taken place.

The allegations raised tensions between London and Edinburgh, and Westminster figures were pointing the finger at McConnell for causing the trouble by portraying himself as standing up to London.

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