Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Waxing ministerial
Rethinking my previous post about the British public's decision to return Tony Blair to power by giving Labor an historic third consecutive majority in Parliament, and after a confab with my British citizen husband, I'd like to retract the statement comparing Blair's "reelection" to George W. Bush's (though Bush's technically wasn't a reelection -- it was his first time winning the office without a court order).

Clearly, the British public faced a maddening Hobson's choice: vote Labor and risk sending a mistaken signal to Mr. Blair that all is forgiven on Iraq. Vote Tory (yeah, right) and risk pushing the country's social, immigration and other policies much further to the right (if you think you hated Blair's policies, just get a load of Michael Howard...) or vote Liberal Democrat to send a message of rebuke to Blair, and risk, in the P.M.s words, letting the Tories in "through the back door."

It seems the British public split the difference -- something you're allowed to do in a system that isn't "winner take all" like our dear Republic. They retained Blair (for now, at least -- he likely won't serve more than two years of his new term), but with a sharply reduced majority in Parliament that sends the clear message that there will be no more fooling around, on Iraq, on social policy (it's likely headed back to the left) and on the other "new Labor" initiatives Blair sought to Clintonize his party with. (Blair's biggest lefty nemesis, the UK Mirror, went so far as to lay out its demands -- actually this is England, so they're more like polite requests -- of the newly heeled P.M. on election night, and columnist Bill Borrows summed up neatly why he'd be voting for Labor, even though he hates Blair's guts. Here's a hint, half the reasons are "Margaret Thatcher...").

The real test will come next time George W. Bush comes knocking on ole' Tony's door, say for a quick little jaunt to Iran? The likelihood of America's dearest friend climbing on board again, without serious public disclosure and a clear mandate from the United Nations, is probably zilch. At the same time, the Brits maintain the things they like about Labor: liberal policy on social programs, more spending on life's niceties, reasonable firmness rather than race-baiting on immigration, and a somewhat less hawkish view of the world.

Blair himself put it best in a statement as the returns rolled in:

"It's not yet clear what the majority is, but it seems clear...that the British people wanted the return of the Labour government, but with a reduced majority. We have to respond to that sensibly and wisely and responsibly. We have to make sure that we focus on the things that matter to people, that they talked about during this campaign - jobs and living standards, and the National Health Service and schools and law and order."

He added: "I know too that Iraq has been a divisive issue in this country and I hope now that we can unite again and look to the future there and here.


So I suppose the Brits aren't so dumb after all.
posted by JReid @ 11:56 PM  
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