2 October 2003

Blair: I've not got a reverse gear

'I can only go one way. I've not got a reverse gear.'

Mocking his current standing in the polls, Mr Blair told delegates: 'The time to trust a politician most is not when they're taking the easy option. Any politician can do the popular things. I know I used to do a few of them.'

'We've been far better at defeating ourselves than the Tories have ever been,' Mr Blair said.

The Prime Minister delivered his much trailed uncompromising message on Iraq saying: 'Iraq has divided the international community. It has divided the party, the country, families, friends.

'I know many people are disappointed, hurt, angry. I know many profoundly believe the action we took was wrong. I do not at all disrespect anyone who disagrees with me.

'I ask just one thing: Attack my decision but at least understand why I took it and why I would take the same decision again.

'Imagine you are PM, and you receive this intelligence and not just about Iraq but about the whole murky trade in WMD .... So what do I do?

'Say 'I've got the intelligence but I've a hunch it's wrong'?' he asked the conference.

I am alarmed. I am not sure Australia would allow the sale of cars without a reverse gear on safety grounds. British traffic must be horrendous if the cars are unable to ever go backwards.

I am equally alarmed that Blair claims to have 'got the intelligence'. He did not, and no amount of splendid rhetoric and flashing eyes will long conceal the plain fact that no WMDs have been found. Once you read the speech in light of that fact, all you have is the same silly claims based on patent untruth that we've heard since the UN debate last year.

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