Sunday, September 26, 2004
The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible
Some Labor Members of Parliament have been suggesting that a plan for getting out of Iraq is something the government might consider. But The Independent says that Tony Blair's supporters are making every effort to ensure that exiting from Iraq not appear on the party's "to-do" list.
As delegates pour into Brighton for the start of the conference this morning, they will come under pressure from party officials not to allow the Iraq conflict to deflect attention from Mr Blair's plans for the next five years of a Labour government.
This afternoon, delegates from more than 600 local Labour parties will be taking part in a ballot to decide whether they want Iraq placed on the agenda.
It is just this kind of focus on substance that keeps the Labor party relevant and puts America's political parties to shame. But there has been a "blip."
Efforts to prevent the Iraq war from taking centre stage almost backfired yesterday when a cabinet minister, Peter Hain, said that it was no more than a "fringe" issue, like fox-hunting. He told BBC's Today programme: "Delegates, if they choose to, can prioritise Iraq over the health service, over education, over employment matters, over other issues. That is their right. Hunting and Iraq are just fringe issues as far as conference is concerned."
If Iraqi insurgents are hunting British troops like a dog pack, that is clearly a fringe issue that should probably be left to some ministry—perhaps the Colonial Office.
But the British people are beginning to feel that Tony Blair is a bit "out of touch" and "inflexible." The Independent has just conducted a poll—
The most striking findings ... are the dramatic changes in the Prime Minister's image as a result of the invasion of Iraq and its consequences. At the time of the last election, 28 per cent thought he was "out of touch with ordinary people". Now 63 per cent think so - exactly the same number as thought it of Lady Thatcher just before her downfall in 1990....
Three years ago, 11 per cent thought Mr Blair was "too inflexible". Now 57 per cent think so - far more than the 35 per cent who thought the same of Thatcher in September 1990.... [emphasis added]
I'm always surprised at what low expectations reporters have of their politicians. The Independent's Andy McSmith finds one poll result "surprising" and notes that "a large minority of the electorate has kept faith"—
... the numbers saying [Blair] is "more honest than most politicians" have also risen, from 25 per cent to 29 per cent.
I can't speak for the British, but in American terms that would be like saying that 71% of the public still consider Blair to be a crook.
In any case, the fox-hunting simile didn't pan out for Peter Hain—
The Leader of Commons later retracted his remark, saying that Iraq is "most emphatically" not a fringe issue.
Will the Iraqi fox manage to get into the Labor henhouse? Stay tuned.
What's up in Britain?