The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Why is Blair doing this?


by Chrisco

I was giving some thought to this the other morning, when my gut feeling was that Blair wasn't going to win the 90-day vote and after Clarke was forced to backtrack on the lower term amendment he had announced at lunchtime on Monday. Why is Blair doing this? Why is he driving this forward when it looks like he has no chance of getting it through? After an awful week that included much talk about the weakening of his authority, why is he playing chicken with an oncoming (Labour) juggernaut. How could the whips have been so wrong? Could they really have had no clue about what was coming? Or did Blair override what they were telling him and plough on regardless?

Then two things made it clear what game our great leader is playing.

First of all, his comments about it being better to have done the right thing and lost than do the wrong thing and win.

Then a few words from Matthew Parris (!) about Blair wanting to leave in a fit of pique.

What's it all about?

The first part is Blair's strong moral conviction. One thing seperates our Prime Minister from the American President, and it is not their black and white view of morality; it is rather that one is an exceptionally skilled political operator, and the other is a faux-Texan simian failed oilman. When Blair said he thought he was doing the right thing and was determined to do it, he was being honest. Charles Clarke might be prepared to back down and have a Dutch auction in spite of police advice, but Blair was not. That is why the Prime Minister forced him to change his stance during the course of Monday. Blair's idea of what is right is absolute, and on such a fundamental issue he refuses to back down. But he also instinctively knows how to turn it to his advantage...

He would become the Vicar of Albion. He would warn the country, do his best, and then shrug his shoulders and sigh when his recalcitrant party refused to follow his lead, then flounce off into the sunset, knowing he was right.

Huh? What about the reform agenda? Forget about it. Blair knows that after the reaction from his own benches that greeted his education proposals, and the resignation of Blunkett, his chances of radically reforming the delivery of services in this country are dead. As a dodo. So he pushed the 90-day issue to the wire. This is going to be his legacy. He is going to go down in history as the man who was denied by his own party; the man who tried to do the right thing by his country but was thwarted by his own elected backwoodsmen, as opposed to the blue-blooded ones that used to sit in the Lords.

This defeat was just the start. Expect two, maybe even three more. They will come. If Blair manages to get some of his measures through, so much more the better, from his perspective. But it will be a fluke, because he will not compromise on the issues; Labour backbenchers will have backed down, not the Prime Minister.

And then, in the end, he will have been defeated once too many times and he will go. With his head held high. Knowing within himself that he did the right thing, but was thwarted by an ungrateful and stupid party. And his legacy? It will be sympathetic, but written by political historians and not social ones.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 1:12 pm  
  • At 10 November, 2005 14:41, Blogger Bishop Hill said…

    To me this theory rings pretty true. I think he does know that he's finished.

    Where I would differ is in the assessment of Blair's legacy. Blair's job was to reform welfare. Only a Labour government could realistically do this. He had Frank Field on board who understood the issues and understood the solutions, but Blair lacked the cojones to push it through. We will pay the price for this weakness for years to come.

    What else has he done? Screwed up the pensions system. Put the country back on the road to genteel decline. Not much else of any great importance except perhaps independence for the Bank of England for which credit should be given.

    War in Iraq? Too early to say if this was a mistake or not IMHO.

    I think Blair will be damned in future as the PM who squandered his opportunity.

  • At 11 November, 2005 12:32, Blogger Stephen Tall said…

    Good article, Chrisco. Spookily, we seem (separately) to have come to the same conclusion:

    Clearly, great minds etc...

  • At 17 November, 2005 16:53, Blogger peter said…

    Outside bet: the next 12 months will see serial backbench rebellions, mounting bad press, he'll have another cardiac 'event' (Brown having made a voodoo doll) then go abruptly on health grounds, leaving Labour in just enough mayhem to cost them their overall majority.

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"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


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