Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 13:43 UK

Lawson suggests Afghan withdrawal

Lord Lawson
The Tories must be "unpopular" on spending, Lord Lawson says

Lord Lawson, the former Conservative chancellor, has suggested British troops leave Afghanistan as a way of cutting government spending.

The Afghan mission was "wholly unsuccessful", he told the BBC, and unjustifiably costly given the cuts in public spending needed in the future.

A further 700 troops are to go to Afghanistan, boosting numbers to 9,000.

Lord Lawson, who is not a Tory front bencher, said "unpopular" decisions to cut spending would have to be made.

'Counter-productive'

As part of these, a withdrawal from Afghanistan could be necessary, he told the World At One programme.

"I do think we need to take a very hard look at our commitment in Afghanistan which, in my view, although the motives were good is wholly unsuccessful and indeed counter-productive.

"You need to make a case for staying and I think that has not yet been made."

The Conservative leadership is committed to keeping UK troops in Afghanistan but has said the mission needs to be more clearly focused on countering the terrorist threat there.

The Tories are currently reviewing all government spending commitments, having said reducing spiralling deficits will be a priority for a future government.

Lord Lawson said, if elected, the Conservatives would need to be "bold and resolute" on what would be cut.

"Everybody would like huge expenditure and low taxation but unfortunately you can't have it," he said.

"So you have to live in the real world and you have to get spending down. It is bound to be unpopular but we did it. It can be done. It has to be done."



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