Trust for Blair slumps over Iraq war handling
By Peter Riddell
LONDON: A third of the British public is less inclined to trust Tony Blair because of his handling of the Iraq war, according to a new Populus poll for The Times taken this week.
However, a big majority still believes that the war was justified, not least because it got rid of Saddam Hussein.
The poll highlights the paradox in public attitudes: backing for the war combined with scepticism about British and American official claims. Some 58 per cent agree that the two countries “deliberately exaggerated” the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in order to win support for going to war. Thirty-nine per cent disagree. The middle classes are more likely than working-class groups to agree.
As a result of “the way that Tony Blair made the case for war in Iraq and events that have happened since then”, 34 per cent say they will be less inclined to trust Mr Blair on other issues in the future. Many Tory voters (47 per cent) and a majority of Liberal Democrat supporters (56 per cent) say they will trust Mr Blair less, but only 14 per cent of Labour voters take this view.
Overall, just 10 per cent say they will be more inclined to trust Mr Blair on other issues in the future, while 54 per cent say “the war in Iraq has made no difference” to how much they will trust Mr Blair on other issues in the future.
Nonetheless, 85 per cent of the public believe that Iraq “probably did have weapons of mass destruction, but either destroyed them, or hid them so well that they may not be found for some time, if ever”, while 12 per cent disagree.
Moreover, 70 per cent agree that “regardless of whether Iraq actually did have weapons of mass destruction, the war was justified because it got rid of Saddam”, while 27 per cent disagree. Labour voters are much more likely to agree (84 per cent) than Lib Dems (54 per cent).
Some 68 per cent agree that “the issue of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction is only being raised again now because people who opposed the war throughout are trying to find a new reason for saying it wasn’t the right thing to do”. Only 29 per cent disagree.
However, support for the war has fallen since early April when fighting was still under way. Two months ago, 64 per cent thought that the military action was right, with 24 per cent saying it was wrong. This has shrunk to a 58 per cent to 34 per cent margin in favour.
Men remain more supportive of military action (by a 61 per cent to 32 per cent margin) than women (56 per cent to 34 per cent). Older voters are least supportive of the war. Support for the war has dropped significantly among Tory voters (from 70 per cent to 57 per cent), while opposition among Lib Dem backers has risen sharply (from 46 per cent to 55 per cent). But support for the war among Labour voters has remained solid at more than three quarters. —LT