Thursday, March 16, 2006

 

Blair's Position Unravels

Blair described the business of passing the Education Bill as a 'high wire' act and so it has come to pass that he has, sort of, fallen off. Comparisons with Ramsay McDonald are deemed 'ludicrous' by The Times but, as someone who has used it, I don't think depending on Conservative votes is behaving unlike Labour's infamous traitor. Admittedly, it's only one vote and I know Attlee had a similar vote and that Heath relied on Labour votes to get us into the Common Market. But this was a core piece of legislation- regarded as a pivotal element of his welfare reform programme by the prime minister- and he could not carry his own party's majority. Moreover, as the bill staggers through parliament, he may need Tory votes again, and again.

And then what about renewing Trident? Philip Cowley's research suggests that the big step for a rebel is the first one. Now the rebels have lost a slightly different kind of virginity(OK, I know)- forcing Blair to survive with enemy votes, they might well find they enjoyed it and want to do it again. How many times will it take before a more explicit tacit alliance has been forged? It's a good job Blair is on the way out and not due to lead into another election and maybe, as Peter Riddell in The Times observes, he will, at least be pleased he's on track to 'secure most of the big changes to the school system he wants'.

Electing him out of office as leader is too long-winded, as I suggested in my last post- but pressure from within to move aside will grow now that Blair is in any case a lame duck premier. Labour's equivalent of the 'men in suits'(men in flat caps?), maybe a joint delegation from the NEC and the PLP might see it as their duty to deliver the pistol and the bottle of whisky to their embattled leader and ask him to do the decent thing. The Guardian editorial today comments that: 'Only a very naive observer would conclude that this[Labour] is currently a party with the focus and energy to win another election, whoever its leader might be.' Gordon Brown might already have been cheated of his believed birthright. Blair's highlighted problem today has focused more on the ignorance by the party Treasurer, (Brownite) Jack Dromey, of the advantageous loans fed into Number 10 via Lord Levy(possibly in exchange for honours), but the real problem he faces are concerned not just with the future of his government but with that of his party.

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