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Chief Whip - no delay until May

7 September 2006

Jacqui Smith MP Chief Whip

Dear Jacqui,

Of course the present row is damaging the Labour Party. It's futile to apportion blame on the two main factions and the intertwined layers of ambition and resentment that create these divisions. But there are no innocents or heroes on either side. As neither a Blairite nor a Brownite, I am certain that the only solution is for Tony Blair to relinquish office very soon. To delay until next May would be grossly unfair to the Party in Wales and Scotland. Welsh MPs made this clear when we met Tony.

The change must come as quickly as possible for another reason. We need a fully independent foreign policy to challenge an increasingly bellicose Bush who is spoiling for war against Iran/Syria. British soldiers continue to lose their lives because we joined the war in Iraq and the mission impossible in the Helmand Province which could develop into a British Vietnam. Our failure to support the rest of world (except the USA) in calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Lebanon was abject folly. We share some of the blame of the terrible consequences.

The Prime Minister has been tough on terrorism but not on the causes of terrorism. On the 23rd of March 2003, I wrote to Tony Blair: “Our involvement in Bush's war will increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Attacking a Muslim state without achieving a fair settlement of the Palestine-Israeli situation is an affront to Muslims from our local mosques to the far-flung corners of the world. The great lesson from Northern Ireland is that the best way to defeat terrorism is to win over the hearts and minds of terrorists, their supporters and their potential supporters. Pre-emptive attack of the kind we have on Iraq will only deepen the sense of grievance among Muslims that the Western/Christian/Jewish world is out to oppress them. This will provide a propaganda victory to Osama Bin Laden and can only increase his support and the likelihood of more acts of terrorism.”

Leaders of Muslim organisations were castigated for pointing out the obvious fact, that Britain's failure to be even -handed on conflicts has again inflamed Muslim opinion. Of course, Britain is not responsible for the original atrocities by Al Qaeda - but we are responsible for increasing and deepening the sense of grievance that spawns terrorism and acts of martyrdom. We need a fresh start.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Flynn