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Iraq: right or wrong?

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Sep 07, 06:53 PM

Tonight on Newsnight, as Jeremy mentioned in his e-mail, we'll bring you a special Newsnight debate from the fringe of the Labour conference.

soldierdark_203.jpgIraq may have barely merited a mention in Gordon Brown's speech yesterday, but there's no doubt that it's still a hugely controversial issue within the Party.

We asked two people - the Labour MP Mike Gapes and Oliver Kamm to make the case for the invasion, and two others - the Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews and comedian Mark Steel - to make the case against, and asked delegates to put their points.

We want to know what you think. Tell us here.

Tuesday, 25 September, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 25 Sep 07, 03:32 PM

From tonight's presenter, Jeremy Paxman:

dmili_203.jpgWhere to begin in attempting to describe to you the unalloyed joy that is the Newsnight team's lot in covering party conferences?

Imagine an underground car park. Now fill it with temporary desks and chairs, laptops, televisions and phones. Then cover the desks in a delightful collection of old newspapers, plastic bags and filthy fast food containers. Scent the air with the aroma of many overheated people and a lot of decaying food.

You begin to conjure up the BBC office.

Now add the dilemma facing the staff. These events ceased to have much political significance years ago. When they made party policy they mattered. Now they're just a very expensive series of rallies.

So, welcome to my world.

The most remarkable thing, of all, however, is what seems to have happened to the delegates. I believe that embalmers remove the blood from corpses before they fill them with preserving fluid.

Well, something similar seems to have happened here. All passion has vanished. There are things called “debates” happening. But they lack that critical factor in discussion, which is a difference of opinion. Mostly what happens is that someone gets the nod from the chair, goes to the microphone and makes an appeal to the leadership or the party. Then they sit down and someone else has a go. Then the bigwig responsible - or sometimes a group of bigwigs - takes the microphone for a much longer period.

This morning we had David Miliband on foreign policy. Actually, although he delivered his first Foreign Secretary's speech to conference as if he was the school swot being asked to talk at Speech Day, he had some rather interesting things to say.

The most charged event of the last 10 years of Labour foreign policy has been the Iraq War. The hundreds of thousands of dead there aren't - of course - being debated in Bournemouth. So we've just staged our own Iraq debate, which you can see on tonight's show.

Miliband was interesting because he was trying to lay out what he called the “Second Wave of New Labour Foreign Policy”. I'll be asking tonight whether this amounts to anything more than forgetting the First Wave.

Now, back to the fug.

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