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ISSUE 118 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/13/2005

Blair rebounds, wastes potential

By Jonathan Graef
Opinion Editor

Friday, May 13, 2005

Parliamentary elections were held in Britain last week. They resulted in another victory for current Prime Minister Tony Blair, who retained his position with a slim majority of the vote. Blair was able to win a third-consecutive term, which, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment.

No other Labour Party (the party to which Blair belongs) leader has done that. On the other hand, Blair suffered a huge loss as well. The Labour Party’s majority in Britain’s House of Commons slipped greatly, as Blair’s party now has 100 seats less than they did in the last Parliament.

British newspapers had much to say about the election, ranging from The Guardian’s reserved (well, in comparison to the … just wait and see) statement about how Blair regained his office “without the authoritive (sic) electoral mandate he had sought,” to the Daily Express effectively stating that the election results were analogous to voters giving Blair a “bloody nose.” By far, the most creative headline comes from the British tabloid The Sun, which said that the election results were for Blair “A Kick in the Ballots.” Pun-tastic!

Many view the results as symbolic of the voter’s increased agitation with Blair, specifically in regard to how he handled the recent war in Iraq. Immediately after Blair’s re-election, most Labour Party Members of Parliament (MPs), called on Blair to resign before his third full-term (each term is five years long) is over.

Not only that, but a recent scandal involving a July 22, 2002 meeting at 10 Downing Street, which is Blair’s personal residence; the main issue addressed at this meeting (which many members of Blair’s cabinet attended) was the upcoming war in Iraq. Long story short, the meeting’s minutes reveal that Blair and Bush decided that “regime change” would be the route to take. What is wrong with that, you might ask?

Look at the date again: this is a year before the actual war in Iraq, and months before both Blair and Bush went to the United Nations asking to support the renewed weapons inspections. Furthermore, the minutes also reveal that some members of Blair’s cabinet expressed huge reservations about the war and its implications.

Most incriminating however, is that a memo, written by Blair’s foreign policy advisor Matthew Rycroft, was circulated a day after the meeting stating, “No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.” Obviously, the memo has now been publicized, and the resulting scandal created what was dubbed by columnist Joe Conason (in his May 6 column for the online magazine) as an “sensational 11th-hour backlash against Blair.”

What is Blair to do? It would appear as if his options are quite limited. He can hope and pray that Iraq stabilizes (which some argue that it is stable, or at least that it will be soon), but that seems like leaving his political fate up to sheer chance. This is not necessarily a great strategy, but like Bill Clinton before him, Blair seems to rebound somewhat easily from scandal. Perhaps he will be dubbed “the Teflon Prime Minister.” Blair can also hope for a miracle in domestic policy, but what that miracle is, on one is sure.

The unfortunate solution is, unless Blair gives in to the demands of many Labour MP’s to resign, he may just have to sit out the remainder of his term and be a lame-duck Prime Minister. Like I stated before, Iraq’s fate is out of his hands, and unless Blair can reform a domestic crisis in a fantastical fashion, there may be nothing else he can do. Like Bill Clinton, Blair may have entered the office with great potential. Unfortunately, history may look back upon Blair’s potential as being more like Bill Clinton’s half-brother, Roger Clinton. Which is to say, wasted.

Staff writer Jonathan Graef is a senior from Glenview, Ill. He majors in English and political science.

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