DOWNING STREET distanced itself from Nick Clegg’s stance on the invasion of Iraq last night after the deputy prime minister declared it “illegal”.
Mr Clegg voiced his opposition to the war as he stood in at the Commons dispatch box for David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions.
His position was later disowned by Number 10, which stressed that the Liberal Democrat leader was articulating his “individual” view.
In common with most Tory MPs, Mr Cameron (on a visit to the US) supported the 2003 invasion.
Mr Clegg’s comments came during an exchange with Labour’s shadow justice secretary Jack Straw, who was Tony Blair’s foreign secretary when the US-led offensive began.
“I’m happy to account for everything we are doing in this coalition Government, which has brought together two parties, working in the national interest to sort out the mess that you left behind,” Mr Clegg said.
“Perhaps one day you could account for your role in the most disastrous decision of all, the illegal invasion of Iraq.”
A Downing Street spokesman insisted Mr Clegg’s remarks were not Government policy, adding the legality of the invasion was currently being studied by the Iraq Inquiry.
“The coalition Government has not expressed a view on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq conflict,” the spokesman said. “But that does not mean that individual members of the Government should not express their individual views. These are long held views of the deputy prime minister.
“The Iraq Inquiry is currently examining many issues surrounding the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the legal basis of the war.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved