By Andrew Ian Dodge (additional material by “Tom Paine”)
We now go to Andrew Marr outside of Parliament.
“It has been an extraordinary day here in Westminster. We have not seen scenes like this for a rather long time. In an unprecedented step to end the British support for the war over half of the Parliamentary Labour Party have formed a new grouping in Parliament.”
“They no longer support the Prime Minister after he was unable to secure a second UN resolution on Iraq. Led by veteran MPs John Prescott and Glenda Jackson , the group intends to cause a new election”.
The Prime Minister’s reaction has been swift. He immediately approached Tory Leader Iain Duncan Smith in order to form a government of national unity with the Tories and Ulster Unionists. Iain Duncan Smith has found himself in the position of Deputy Prime Minister.”
“When Parliament reconvenes tomorrow for Prime Minister’s question time you will see the Tory Party and the UUP sitting on the government benches along with the loyal Labour Party members who remained with their leader.”
“In retaliation for the call for a vote of no confidence, Prime Minister Tony Blair has instructed his whips to withdraw the whip from any rebel Labour MP.”
In a terse statement Downing Street said “In a time of war it is disgraceful to see some Labour Party members trying to pursue their own agenda. Under the current level of threat it is unconscionable for colleagues to undermine this government.”
Dennis Skinner scowled “We always knew he was a closet Tory. We now see his true colours.”
Mr Skinner went on to called for fresh elections as well as investigation into the constitutional legality of the move.
This crisis was of course caused by the refusal of the French to support the new resolution on Iraq. The French with the Russians have waged a campaign against the stance of the PM and US President George W Bush towards Iraq.
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, interviewed a few minutes ago outside Downing Street had this to say.
“I was very happy to accept the Prime Minister’s invitation to be his deputy. As you well known the Conservative Party has stood behind the Prime Minister?s efforts to free Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. We support his efforts to protect the UK from terrorist attacks. The tanks on the streets may seem extreme but I am confident the measures are necessary.”
When asked about the reasons for the crisis, Mr Duncan Smith answered “My concern is not the inner turmoil of the Parliamentary Labour Party but what is best for the nation. It is unfortunate that colleagues felt unable to support their leader but we most move on. This situation demonstrates the flexibility of our Parliament and shows its strength not its weakness.”
As you can imagine, Tories cannot not believe their luck. There have been a few rogue voices among some of the Tory Grandees though. Former Prime Minster Edward Heath has issued a terse statement condemning the move and lamenting the lack of unity on this issue in Europe. It was signed by fellow Europhiles Kenneth Clarke, Michael Heseltine and Douglas Hurd.
Tony Blair tonight is confident that he has seen off the threat to his leadership and claims he is not worried by the current situation. Our parliamentary correspondent reports that Prime Minister’s Question time tomorrow is likely to be a very lively affair.
For more on the crisis, join Jeremy Paxman on BBC2 in a few moments when his guests will include John Prescott, David Davis and Harold Pinter.
After that, we will be screening “Islam: Empire of Faith”, followed by “A Very British Coup”, a re-run of Terry Jones? series on the impact of the Crusades on the Middle East, and then the seventh repeat this month of “Palestine is Still the Question” by John Pilger.
In an unrelated development, the BBC would like to announce that “Stars on Sunday” is to be revived, however it will be broadening its appeal to the public, by dumping it’s usual array of elderly singing stars and Welsh choirs, and instead will be bringing you the best Friday sermons from the Arab world, Q’ran recitations from Bradford, and instructions on how to make nerve gas in your kitchen, courtesy of the BBC’s new religious affairs advisor, Abu Hamza, formerly of the Finsbury Park Mosque.
And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow morning, when we’ll be crossing live to Smithfield for the first public stonings ordered by Britain’s brand new Sharia Court, funded by the Multi-Cultural Outreach Centre of the Greater London Council.
Next week we’re off to Oxford for the burning at the stake of the Chief Rabbi and the last Anglican priest who claims to believe in God.
BBC2 would like to wish our viewers a happy Eid, and we’ll see you again after the break, inshallah. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, that’s the end of the news.