by RAY FLEMING l AT the opening of the Liberal Democrats conference yesterday Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell both laid into Tony Blair for what Mr Kennedy called his “litany of lies” about Iraq. With the Conservatives mute on Iraq, the Lib Dems are the only parliamentary voice able to reflect what the British people are thinking. A YouGov poll at the weekend suggested that support for Britain's involvement in the conflict is at its lowest point. A mere 38 per cent of people now believe that the war was right and 52 per cent think it was wrong, compared with 66 per cent who supported it when the invasion began. Women are particularly critical of Mr Blair's policies, with only 30 per cent thinking that the UK troops should remain in Iraq.

Yet a commitment to Britain's continuing presence “for the long haul” was pledged by Mr Blair during his press conference with the Iraqi prime minister in Downing Street on Sunday. This was an extraordinary occasion during which Mr Blair calmly announced that a new war is taking place in Iraq “now that the first conflict to remove Saddam Hussein is over Iraq is the battleground of global terrorism versus the side of democracy and liberty”. The prime minister has a nerve. He could easily have made a similar statement before Parliament rose last week until November. Instead he uses a press conference, knowing that he is safe from parliamentary questioning and criticism for several weeks.

Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem's foreign affairs spokesman said: “Around the world Britain is associated with unilateralism in Iraq and douhle standards in the Middle East. Trust in the prime minister has fallen at home. Trust in Britain has fallen abroad.”