I was right, Tony Blair sees the election as his penitance. He has now atoned for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and, having suffered the pain of being abused and punished by the voters he is now cleansed, and can continue as the country’s leader - all the more justified by what everyone else regards as his defeat.
Everyone except his close circle. Between them and those with judgement in the Labour Party a battle is developing that will determine the future of the British state.
A key date is the French vote in their referendum on the European constitution on the 29th of this month. A non
and Blair is saved for the time being, but if they vote oui
then UK is committed to its own referendum.
Voters have just made it as clear as possible that Blair cannot win any such referendum. If Labour lose it then the Tories will be positioned as the party that defines what it means to be British. From that point on the next election will belong to them. From Labour’s point of view, therefore, it is essential that a swift transition takes place, before the Autumn, to give a new leader, which if it is fast will be Gordon Brown, the time and space to create a programme that can win the referendum.
I'd say this is the last thing Blair wants. For him the political is personal. He would prefer that the party which he has 'borrowed' turns to ashes without him, so that the glow of its aftermath puts him in a good light historically; rather than risk his term in office being overshadowed by by Brown.
There is no evidence that TB has any feeling of loyalty towards Labour, new or old, whether Brown or light purple - the imperial hue it chose for its election campaign.
Instead, he and his Blair court are digging, in using all the powers of the British system they can to preserve themselves. Immediately after the election Blair told the country he would "listen". Then up pops Pat McFadden as his spokesman, telling the cameras that opposition to Blair is irrelevant. McFadden has just become an MP after serving as Blair's staff officer in 10 Downing street. A product of the sectarian in-fighting that formed New Labour, McFadden listens in the way that a spy eavesdrops.
In a speech that defined his ambitions as premier Blair famously called for ‘education, education, education’. But who is educating whom? He has made another one of his Downing Street gang, Andrew Adonis, an Education Minister by shoe-horning him into the House of Lords. I once had an exchange with Adonis in the monthly magazine Prospect. It was about constitutional chnage under Blair. Formally a Liberal Adonis once supported democratic reform. But his personal style always left me with the feeling that his one aim in life was to look down on you. Now he can do so, having completed his transformation into an apparatchnik and provided one more reason for the abolition of the House of Cronies.
These are the moves of a team digging in for positional warfare not renewal let alone democracy. "Listen" - don't make me laugh.
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