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War issue not reflected in polls

From CNN's Matthew Chance

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The legality of British PM Tony Blair's decision to join the Iraq war is challenged.

Iraq war puts the trust in Blair to the test. CNN's Robin Oakley reports.
Would Britain have been better served if Tony Blair had stood down and not fought a third election as Labour leader?
Great Britain
Tony Blair
Michael Howard

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Was Iraq an illegal war? It is not just a question for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but an election issue that will not disappear.

Just a week before the country votes, Blair is again defending his decision to join the US-led invasion -- now releasing his attorney general's secret advice on whether or not it was legal.

"The key thing is the attorney general advising it was OK to proceed," Blair said.

"This so-called smoking gun has turned out to be a damp squib because he did advise it was lawful to proceed and in the end the question then was political."

The latest controversy stems from a leaked pre-war memo sent to Blair from Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, which is now public.

In it, Lord Goldsmith warned an invasion could be deemed illegal without a second UN Security Council resolution.

Blair previously stated the advice "unequivocally" supported the case for war -- an inconsistency seized on by the opposition.

"If we can't trust Mr Blair about the decision to go to war -- the most important decision a prime minister can make -- how can we ever trust him on anything ever again," Conservative leader Michael Howard said.

British newspapers smell blood too.

Blair's political opponents -- well behind him in opinion polls -- hope the issues of Iraq and the prime minister's integrity will pick at the comfortable lead his Labour Party still enjoys.

But on the streets, few interviewed by CNN said it would change their vote.

"I was going to vote Labour, I was against the war, but I'm still going to vote Labour," one woman told CNN.

Despite the big media row over the legality of war, it seems Iraq remains a minority concern with the British public.

One opinion poll suggests Iraq will make a difference to only three per cent of voters -- and whether or not you believe it vindicates Prime Minister Blair, this legal advice from the attorney general is unlikely to change that, or the outcome of the British election.

Meanwhile, after what was seen as a difficult but self-assured TV appearance with the other two party leaders Thursday night, Blair told voters that if they chose the opposition Conservatives, they would be gambling with their jobs and mortgages. (Full story)

The British public votes on May 5.

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