Blair versus his Party
It is, of course, very obnoxious to say "I told you so." Sometimes, however, the temptation is irresistible. I shall do my best to resist it here, but I don't guarantee success.
Last October I posted a piece to this site titled "TheAnglosphere Goes to War." In it, I wondered aloud just how far Tony Blair could take his Labour Party in the War on Terror. Not very far, was my guess; and I sketched a picture of the Labour Party as an assemblage of hate-America love-the-world tree-huggers, with a leavening of old-line Marxists, pacifists, and immigrant Muslims.
We were not thinking in terms of a war against Iraq at that time. Now we are, and Tony is in trouble. 160 Members of Parliament, mainly from his own party,* have signed a motion against war with Iraq. The Leader of the Commons — roughly equivalent to the House Majority Leader, but in Britain a cabinet post** — is pushing for a full debate in Cabinet. Out in the country, the troops, which is to say the Labour Party constituency workers, are restless and getting angry. (The average Labour Party constituency worker, I should explain, has a job title something like Health Service Community Relations Liaison Officer, sports a No Nuclear Power sticker on his car bumper, and got a not-very-good degree in Sociology from a second-rate university.)
As an example of the kind of thing Blair is facing, take a look at Gerald Kaufman's bilious little piece in the August 17 London Spectator. Kaufman is an old Labour Party war horse from the Harold Wilson days, and what passes for an elder statesman in Blair's Britain (he is 72). Here is a sample of the Spectator piece.
Bush, himself the most intellectually backward American president of my political lifetime, is surrounded by advisers whose bellicosity is exceeded only by their political, military, and diplomatic illiteracy. Pity the man who relies on Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice for counsel. The only man in the U.S. administration who knows the score is …
Well, can you guess who that man is? (Anagram of nice low poll.) These words, let it be noted again, come from a senior figure in Blair's party, respected and esteemed by the members of that party.
Every couple of paragraphs, Kaufman turns aside from insulting the U.S. to aim a kick at Israel. Kaufman is himself Jewish, from the old 19th-century community in Leeds, a city in the northeast of England. He is, however, the kind of Jew who thinks that the original shining ideal of Israel as a socialist, secular, communalist utopia has been wrecked by religious crazies, thick-headed generals, and people who want to — ugh! — make money. He loathes modern Israel.
Kaufman points to the "incompatibility" between a U.S. invasion of Iraq for violating U.N. resolutions, while at the same time we are "actively supporting Israeli violation of U.N. resolutions forbidding the illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories." There are so many errors and half-truths in that last quote, one hardly knows where to start. In the first place, there are no such resolutions: If you scan a list of U.N.resolutions involving Israel, you will find #446, which declares the settlements a serious obstruction to peace, #452, which calls on Israel to stop building any more, and #465 deploring them, but nothing "forbidding" them. Then: "illegal"? Under what statutes, passed by what legislature, are the settlements "illegal"? And since the territories Kaufman is presumably speaking of belonged — with the full consent of the entire international community, including every blessed one of the Arab states — to Jordan and Egypt, before those countries lost them in a foolish war of aggression, surely the proper term is "occupied Jordanian and Egyptian territories."
The man's anti-American bile flows so freely, it swamps his argument altogether in places. "One has to ask if Bush would ever have launched a war against terror if it had not been for 11 September." (Compare and contrast: "One has to ask if Roosevelt would ever have launched a war against Japan if it had not been for Pearl Harbor.") And since the matter of terrorism has been raised, "one has to ask" if Kaufman has ever uttered a peep in protest against Blair's craven and dishonest appeasement of the IRA, one of the world's nastiest terrorist organizations, which has trained side-by-side with Arab terrorists.
The main thrust of the piece, though, is multilateralist. "There is no possibility whatever of building a coalition against Saddam … Any war against Saddam, launched by Bush and supported by Tony Blair, would have the overt support of precisely one other country: Israel … [pause for another kick at Israel] … We did not support the Tory government [in the Gulf War], we supported the U.N …" No awareness here, and none in the Labour Party at large, that the U.N. is a confederacy of dunces, which looks set fair to appoint Libya to the chair of its Human Rights Commission.
Once again, this is a senior figure in Blair's party, saying things that, I have not the slightest doubt, practically all members of the Labour Party are thinking. Will there be mutiny in the ranks? The Kaufman article suggests that there already is. True, Blair has a strong position. He has done for Labour what Clinton did for the Democrats: put an electable face on what is still, fundamentally, a party of college-dorm peaceniks, who hate their own race, country, culture and civilization. He has won two elections resoundingly and thrown the main opposition party into utter disarray. (Blair is the first Prime Minister of his party to serve two consecutive terms.) He has no credible challenger among his colleagues.
Margaret Thatcher was in a similarly unassailable position in the late 1980s, though. Much as they might wish it otherwise, Prime Ministers are not Presidents on fixed terms, but serve at the whim of their colleagues. British politics is very volatile: it was a previous Labour Prime Minister who coined the apothegm: "A week is a long time in politics." Furthermore, should the U.S. decide on war and Blair wish to join in, he will have an even tougher sell to his electorate than Bush will have to his: polls show two-thirds of the British public currently unconvinced of the need or justice of war with Iraq.
Blair is a clever little chap, though, and he will find a way to retain the affection of his party, and probably of the electorate, too, by ratting on us. He probably has it all worked out already, down to the very words he will say to express his "regret" that he cannot go along with an "ill-advised" and "premature" operation, undertaken before some blathering U.N.-sponsored "process" or other has been given the opportunity to "bring Saddam to the table." There has hardly ever been such a master of weasel words as Tony Blair — ask an Ulsterman. He'll rat on us, his party will applaud, and his electorate won't care. You heard it here first.
* There are 659 members in the House of Commons, 410 of Blair's party and another 65 of parties even further left.
** Because under the British Constitution, any party, or coalition of parties, that controls the House numerically, will be called upon by the Monarch to form a government.