The Blair Bush’s-Bitch Project
Iraq could be a catalyst for a new, and much tougher, phase in Labour’s hitherto largely unchallenged political ascendancy. It could be a lightning rod for pent-up and far less generous judgments about many aspects of the Blair project. It is one of those moments in politics that simply makes everything else look different.
This is bad news for Mr Blair, as some recent random events show. In the last couple of weeks, the government has abandoned its commitment to a more democratic House of Lords, has threatened the firefighters with the scrapping of the right to strike, has committed itself to a system of student finance that threatens future generations with heavy debts, has threatened to pull out of international treaties protecting the rights of refugees, and has announced that it is minded to allow Fylingdales to become a central pillar of America’s missile defence system.
Sounds like a Baby Bush to me. But wait…there’s more:
In the past, Mr Blair might have been able to persuade the public of the merits of one or even all of these controversial, even scandalous, stances. At worst, he would have persuaded most voters to allow their general confidence to overcome their scruples. But not today. Today it is all much harder pounding for him. Today everything feeds into everything else. Not all of that is fair, but then it was not fair either that Mr Blair had such an easy ride in the early years. What is clear is that he now has an immense task to capture the trust that used to fall effortlessly into his lap. If nothing else, the consequences for Mr Blair’s continued wish to take Britain into the eurozone have been put at real hazard.
There have been controversial policies before and they did not do this sort of damage to Labour. What has changed? The answer, above all, seems to be Iraq – or more bluntly George Bush. The Bush administration is doing terrible damage to Mr Blair. Washington’s aggressive world view, and Mr Blair’s seemingly unshakeable desire to be its fellow traveller, have drained Mr Blair’s political capital at an alarming rate. The polls, whether they are taken on the telephone or the internet, show clear, consistent and continuing patterns of damage. Mr Blair’s personal ratings have slumped. The government’s record is far less highly regarded than it was. The erosion of confidence in its economic competence, revealed in a YouGov internet poll yesterday, is particularly striking – nearly halved since the general election a mere 20 months ago
Tony Blair thought he was hitching his wagon to a star…turns out it’s a block of cement.