SOME readers will know already that I’m standing as an Alba candidate in the General Election.

I am conflicted, of course, about the dangers of splitting the anti-Union vote. However, in my defence, I am appealing to many disillusioned indy voters who might otherwise be tempted to stay at home on July 4.

Maximising the total Scottish independence vote is vital. On the other hand, electing this or that number of indy MPs to a remote, dysfunctional, unreformable Westminster is neither here nor there. But there is another important reason why I am standing in Lothian East: the presence of the Labour candidate.

Meet Douglas Alexander, the living personification of New Labour and Blairism. If elected in Lothian East, Alexander will be one of the few Labour MPs with previous ministerial and Cabinet experience. He has served as secretary of state for international development and as Scottish Secretary.

He was a key insider in the Blair governments, serving in the Cabinet Office during the invasion of Iraq, and as co-ordinator of Labour’s 2001 General Election campaign. Alexander was also chair of David Miliband’s failed bid to be Labour leader in 2010, and then strategy head for Ed Miliband’s disastrous 2015 General Election campaign.

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In 2015, Alexander was ousted from his Paisley seat at Westminster by the SNP’s youthful Mhairi Black. Now he is hoping for a political comeback in Lothian East. If resurrected – sorry, re-elected – he is a likely contender to become foreign secretary in any Starmer administration.

But there’s the rub. Has this cheerleader for New Labour’s “ethical foreign policy” – as in promoting foreign military adventures and shamefully coat-tailing US imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan – learned from the errors of the past? Or is putative foreign secretary Alexander going to lead us into fresh wars with Russia and China?

Let me say up front that Alexander is very personable and certainly very bright. I don’t question his integrity. However, I doubt that his time outside Westminster – teaching in America and advising an international law firm that specialises in energy deals – has led him to any Damascene conversion regarding Labour’s illegal, immoral and utterly disastrous foreign policy during the Blair-Brown years.

A foreign policy that led directly to the current instability in the Middle and Near East and which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq. Deaths for which Alexander has never apologised.

The National: Douglas Alexander with Mhairi Black at the Paisley count followinng his defeat at the 2015 General Election.

You will remember that the ostensible reason the Blair administration gave for supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the claim that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, principally rocket-borne chemical and biological WMD.

This was in fact moonshine and, as shown by subsequent investigations, the Labour government was well aware of the paucity of evidence for Iraqi WMD.

The first indictment against Alexander (a Cabinet Office insider during the invasion) is that on multiple occasions he voted in the House of Commons against a public investigation of Labour’s false claims regarding WMD.

Even after he reversed ferret and supported Gordon Brown’s decision to hold an inquiry (to pin the blame on Blair?) it was decided to hold the investigation in camera. However, Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chair, vetoed this decision.

Alexander was similarly chary of investigating later claims about needless deaths in Iraq. As international development secretary, he was repeatedly asked in the Commons for his department to investigate reputable claims from doctors that the Allied forces’ use of depleted uranium in armour-piercing shells was causing increases in birth defects in towns such as Fallujah.

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For instance, in September 2009, Alexander issued a parliamentary statement claiming that the Department for International Development had no evidence of “any reliable data that show such an increase in birth defects”.

However, doctors at the Fallujah General Hospital began logging cases in 2009 and determined that 144 babies were born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. In 2010, Chris Busby, a British scientist studying the health effects of radiation, released a report that showed a 12-fold increase in child cancer in Fallujah since Allied attacks in 2004. Perhaps Alexander should have dug a little deeper.

Out of office, he has been gently reframing Labour’s Iraq disaster. But still without providing an apology or any hint that he would behave differently if handed control of Britain’s foreign policy.

In an interview in June 2014, he opined: “It is facile to suggest that the crisis affecting Iraq today can be attributed solely to the consequences of intervention.”

Perhaps not solely, but surely the calculated destabilisation of Iraq and the death of at least half a million Iraqis (according to a Lancet study) was the primary cause, Douglas? In a Guardian interview last year – doubtless with an eye on the upcoming General Election –Alexander came as close as he ever has to saying sorry about Iraq.

The National: Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, pictured talking to members of the public during a questions and answers session at the SECC. The Cabinet met at the SECC in Glasgow, today, Thursday.....Photograph by Colin

But his words were very measured. Assessing the decision to invade, he thought “the negatives outweigh the positives in my judgment”. However, he added: “Of course, I don’t regret the removal of Saddam Hussein.” So that justifies the death of half-a-million people?

In the same interview, Alexander tried to explain his position: “Had any of us who were in the House of Commons at the time known then what we know now, that the weapons of mass destruction weren’t there, we wouldn’t have voted – indeed there wouldn’t have been a vote.”

So, ignorance is his excuse. Unfortunately, the Chilcot Inquiry found that the UK intelligence services – which reported to Alexander’s Cabinet Office – had “not established beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein was still manufacturing chemical and biological weapons.

But isn’t this all water under the political bridge? Iraq was 20 years ago and the world is now defined by Covid, climate change, Brexit and the Ukraine war. But that’s just my point.

New Labour’s foreign policy was characterised by a breathtaking arrogance, by the view that we had an imperial right to intervene in other people’s affairs and by a slavish kowtowing to the White House.

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I see nothing in the current views of Keir Starmer or Alexander to think this has changed. Even in opposition in 2011, while shadow foreign secretary, Alexander happily supported the Tory government’s decision to bomb Libya into the Stone Age. He said he was “proud” of the Nato intervention.

Like Iraq, Libya is now a dysfunctional state. Recently Alexander has taken a hawkish line on Ukraine and strengthening Nato.

Behind Alexander’s self-image of pragmatism and efficiency lies a view that he can fix anything. Unfortunately, his track record in foreign affairs suggests exactly the opposite.

This General Election campaign affords him an opportunity to say sorry for his role in the Iraq war. Over to you, Douglas.