TCS Daily


Blair Rising, Again?

By Andrew Ian Dodge - February 15, 2006 12:00 AM

It really would have been unthinkable a few months ago to suggest that Tony Blair might be forced to stay on for a fourth general election. He was at that time under pressure from his party over a whole raft of reforms; his presumed successor, Gordon Brown, had compiled a good economic record and was poised to take over.

What a difference a New Year can make. Brown now faces a steep rise in unemployment, a slowdown in the economy and general taxation malaise. It is obvious to even the most oblivious that his sums don't add up and that he will have to raise taxes to address a budget shortfall. Of course, were Brown to raise taxes, he would face the possibility of an even bigger downturn and a complete loss of competitive advantage over the rest of Europe. The ending of the UK's rebate will aggravate the economic picture.

Even though Rupert Murdoch has no longer thrilled with Blair, he has indicated that he is not keen on the new Tory leader David Cameron either, saying as much in a recent interview. Like many, Murdoch believes Cameron to be a Blair-clone trying to adopt Blairism just as it is falling out of favor. Cameron is so busy ditching policies, including those he developed for his predecessor Michael Howard, that he is failing to notice that he is agitating his base. Every day the BBC reports eagerly on which age-old policy of the Tories Cameron has gotten rid of in grand style.

More and more of Cameron's early fans are expressing grave doubts in him. Even the Daily Telegraph opinion page is getting a bit testy. Just look a quote from a recent leader on the latest from Cameron and company.

While he was running for the party leadership Mr Cameron promised to lead a "crusade for capitalism;" his lieutenant, George Osborne, spoke enthusiastically of the flat tax. Once he had won, Mr Cameron announced he did not believe in "isms" such as "capitalism", and yesterday he and Mr Osborne ruled out the flat tax.

Cameron's attempt to attract Liberal Democrat voters and members might have some traction but he risks falling down the crack between the two parties.

Blair certainly has less to worry about with the Lib-Dems as they set about imploding while everyone else cheers. The Lib-Dems have always had a habit of maximizing any problems of their opponents whether political or private so they are getting little sympathy in their hour of difficulty. The papers have sensed blood in the water and are scrambling to find the next MP to err. In addition to the recent stepping down of leader Charles Kennedy for reasons of alcoholism, two other prominent Lib-Dem MPs admitted to being homosexuals.

Voters are left wondering what other secrets Lib-Dems are harboring. This sort of behavior will not play well in the seats the Lib-Dems are targeting with their lurch to the left. In fact, a recent poll sees Lib-Dem support now down to 12 percent. Traditional Labour voters can be even less tolerant than their Conservative counterparts, less so again if these voters are Muslim.

With a weakened Chancellor and no obvious other candidate in their own party, the Labour faithful are desperate to hold on to power and might just beg Blair to stay on for another go. Despite his promise, it is certain that Blair, or his ego, will be forced to agree. It would also give him the chance to lead the country when the Olympics come to London in 2012. True, the general election may not be called for several years yet, but it would be unwise to think that Blair and his New Labour allies are not already planning for the next go round.

For several months now, it has been clear that British politics is in a state of chaos. Tony Blair MP, ever the survivor, is just the man to take advantage of the disarray and to prevail.

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1 Comment

A Week in Politics is a Long Time
This article makes no mention of the Dunfermline by-election & I suspect was writen before it. For US readers whathappened was that the Liberal Democrats scored a 16% swing to take a very safe Labour seat. While you can't establish a trend from one datum you can't ignore it either.

Blair's position was sort of reinforced by the fact that Brown organised the Labour campaign here noetheless it cannot have been a pleasureable reinforcement. The Tory vote, which was admittedly very small to start with, dropped further, at least partly because under Cameron's rebranding of the Tories their well respected candidate was pushed aside for a relatively unknown woman. The feminist vote did not respond & neither did anybody else.

The Liberal campaign was a local & Scottish one so they should not take to much from this but it does suggest their leadership troubles are superficial.

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