Commons July 7th 2016
Paul Flynn (Shadow Leader of the House).
As the Speaker now processes majestically from the Chair to Speaker’s House, I wonder whether he has been issued with a parliamentary umbrella. Last week, I noticed two yellow buckets on the route to collect the rain, and today there is one white bucket. Will the Leader of the House tell us when we are going to get this palace into a habitable state? Can he also remind us which party promised to fix the roof while the sun was shining?
The House is grateful, as ever, to the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). He is a rarity on the Government Back Benches as a man who is occasionally caught in possession of an intelligent thought, and who speaks real English—the language that the rest of us speak. This week, he gave us vital intelligence on the three remaining candidates for the leadership of the Tory party: one of them is “bloody difficult”; one does not expect to deliver on the extremely stupid things she has been saying; and one would declare war on at least three countries. We have a legitimate interest in this, because the winner of this race will also be the Prime Minister.
I suggest to the Conservatives that they perhaps repeat the great success that they had in Totnes, where they introduced the system of a primary vote in which everyone took part. It would be wonderful to have the chance to write-in a candidate such as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe. Happily, at his time of life, he has passed beyond the stages of ambition and vanity that afflict many in political life. If he is reluctant to return to the Dispatch Box because he is of a certain age, let me remind him of what I have discovered: the Dispatch Box is a vital support and a wonderful alternative to a Zimmer frame.
Two days next week are given to a matter of the highest importance. Chilcot concluded that the UK chose to join the war in Iraq before the peaceful options were exhausted. We must not let artifice, denial, spin, delusions and expensive barrister-created obfuscation mask the vital Chilcot truths. Chilcot concluded that Government, Opposition and three Select Committees of this House were wrong in 2003, and our decisions led to an avoidable war.
Our reputation as politicians fell to rock bottom during the expenses scandal, but since then it has fallen further and it is now subterranean. We need to recognise the whole truths of Chilcot. We should debate this next week in a very serious atmosphere. We did it; the decisions were taken in this House. I and many other Members were here at the time. Our mood should be one of humility, penitence and respect for all those who put their lives at risk at our command.
The dedication, professionalism and courage of our servicepeople were as great and splendid as any in our entire proud military history. We want to express in those two days next week our profound gratitude to all who have given their lives and their service, and who have been maimed in body and mind by the experience of going to the wars, some of which—Kosovo and Sierra Leone—were magnificent achievements in the extension of peace and human rights around the world.
There is another group that we need to bear in mind next week. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the loved ones who were bereaved by the war. We saw yesterday that they were forced to revisit their grief with the added pain of the knowledge from Chilcot that their loved ones possibly died in vain. To them, Parliament should offer our regrets and our apologies, because we know that the responsibility was ours. We should hope above all that the spirits of all who died as a result of our decisions may now rest in peace.