Page last updated at 14:55 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009

18 March 2003: Blair sets up Iraq vote win


House of Commons

Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a bitterly divided Commons to make the case for war in Iraq, despite the failure of his government to secure a second UN Security Council resolution explicitly authorising the invasion.

Mr Blair's decision to push ahead with the war in spite of its contested legal basis had prompted the resignation of his Cabinet colleague Robin Cook the previous evening.

Against this backdrop, the prime minister produced what many Westminster-watchers describe as his finest oratorical performance in the Commons.

"I have never put the justification for action as regime change," Mr Blair says at the start of this extract, the emotive finale to his speech.

He had already described in detail the UK's controversial legal basis for war.

But he then offers a series of moral arguments why regime change meant that the invasion was "the right thing" to do.

Several times in this clip, Mr Blair looks sternly across the chamber to his right, towards the Liberal Democrat benches. Earlier in his speech he had described the party as "unified, as ever, in opportunism and error" due to its opposition to the war.

Despite failing to win over a single Liberal Democrat MP, the government won the vote by a convincing margin with the support of the Conservatives.

The invasion began two days later.

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