A hollow victory for Tony Blair

The week's news at a glance.


“A win can signal a kind of defeat,” said Jonathan Freedland in the London Guardian. Prime Minister Tony Blair last week led his Labor Party to an unprecedented third straight victory in elections to Parliament. But the whole country knows that election day marked “the beginning of the end of the Blair era.” Labor won, but only barely. It limped home with a shrunken majority of 67 seats in the 646-member Parliament—and with Blair’s popularity waning, even his own party won’t necessarily support his bills. Making concessions has never been Blair’s strong point. And making them to the more obstinate, old-school, leftist members of the party is a task much better suited to his deputy, Chancellor Gordon Brown. It is known that Blair has promised Brown that he will step down well before the current five-year term is up. “Guesses range on when the transition will come. Some say it will be next year, some predict this autumn.”

The sooner the better, said Richard Littlejohn in the London Sun. “The electorate is sick of the sight of Blair.” In a country that frowns on overt ambition and prizes self-effacement, Blair is widely viewed as power mad, insincere, and relentlessly self-serving. The only reason his party won yet again is because voters “can’t yet stomach the prospect of a Conservative government.” The gloom on Blair’s face at the news of his tiny margin of victory showed that he understood, at last, just how unpopular he is. He certainly gave the impression of being “suitably chastened”—but “then again, he does fake sincerity and humility to perfection.” For all we know, “he may well have punched the air and screeched, ‘Yessss!!’ as soon as the door of No. 10 closed behind him.”

Doubtful, said Andy McSmith and Francis Elliott in the London Independent. Blair is no fool, and he can certainly read these election results. The Iraq war hurt Blair severely—and not only by driving anti-war voters to the Liberal Democratic Party. The war is widely perceived as having been based on a lie—a lie that came straight from Blair. Even in his own district, the prime minister was challenged for his seat by a man whose only claim to office was that he lost a son in Iraq. Before the TV audience got to hear Blair’s victory speech, it first heard grieving father Reg Keys’ concession speech. One day, Keys said, he hoped “the prime minister will be able to say sorry.” As he listened, Blair looked stricken, and his wife, Cherie, was “close to tears.”

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Trevor Kavanagh


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