First, a personal note:
Let me put on the parliamentary record the genuine gratitude of myself and my family to colleagues on both sides of the House, in all parties, for the expressions of goodwill and support that we have enjoyed and much appreciated over the course of the past few months. I am particularly grateful to be contributing to this debate, on this of all issues, which probably consumed more of my time as leader of the Liberal Democrats than just about any other, short of fighting general election campaigns.Then some acute political points:
I recall the role played by the Conservatives. I do not want in any way to shatter the convoluted consensus that the former leader of the Conservative party, who is now its foreign affairs spokesman, sought to fashion earlier, but we should remember the time when Conservative Members were shouting out things like “Charlie Chamberlain”—showing, I always felt, a paucity of knowledge of the history of their own parliamentary party—and failing to ask the pertinent questions about what became known as the dodgy dossier.
I can tell the House—as I had my briefing in No. 10 a few minutes later—that the Prime Minister was as taken aback as anyone when the then Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), emerged from No. 10 Downing street and announced on its steps that war was now both inevitable and desirable, which was not even the official position of the Government at that point.