by MONITOR

DAVID Cameron's decision to give priority to a short-notice trip to Iraq over a long-standing engagement to address this week's annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry has been questioned in some quarters. His justification was that he wants to get first hand briefing from the military in Iraq before the publication in Washington of the report of the Iraq Study Group and the subsequent debate on it; however, this report is still in draft and no date for its appearance has been announced.

Still, in the year since he became leader Mr Cameron has been reticent on the subject of Iraq and it is encouraging to know that he intends to engage with the issue in the near future.

Perhaps, though, if he had known that the cover of the CBI's conference magazine would carry his photograph with the caption underneath reading “Friend or foe?” he might have thought twice about which date he should keep. It is unlikely that the Conservatives will be able to make any serious impact on Iraq policy at this late stage whereas there may be a need to reassure business leaders that the party is basically friendly towards industry. This has not always been apparent from Mr Cameron's speeches and it was noticeable that in his address on Monday George Osborne, pinch-hitting for his leader, made a point of insisting that the party was “not anti-business” to champion green taxes, flexible working or social responsibility.

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