Prime Minister Tony Blair’s “special relationship” with President Bush could very spell finis for his career.
Blair is in trouble for a major cabinet reshuffle, the highlight being the firing of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. A column in the London Independent asserts that Straw was dropped because of his opposition to a U.S. military assault on Iran. Straw had labeled the idea of a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran as “nuts” and had said that British action against Iran was “inconceivable.” Apparently, Bush wasn’t too amused.
The cabinet rearrangement was also due to the Labor Party’s dismal recent showing in local elections, which has added pressure for Tony Blair to step down. Blair had pledged during last year’s parliamentary elections to hand over power to Gordon Brown, currently the chancellor of exchequer, but has since then in Clintonesque fashion (Clinton being a good friend and political mentor) refused to be pinned down on exactly when he’ll be doing so.
The Iraq War has been one of the major reasons for the profound disillusionment with Blair’s leadership among the British electorate.
Derek Wyatt, a Member of Parliament from Blair’s Labor Party, was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that Blair’s support for Bush’s Iraq debacle has cost him dearly.
“I've been listening to people in my constituency very carefully for a couple of years,” Wyatt said. “And they'd like to see a change at the top.”
Indeed, Blair’s enthusiasm for the Iraq invasion severely damaged him during the parliamentary elections last year, causing his party’s majority in the House of Commons to be reduced by almost 100 seats.
This was in spite of the fact that the economy was performing quite well, with unemployment rates and interest rates both low. Blair has also had some other genuine achievements, notably in the devolution of power to Scotland and Wales. But all this paled beside his decision to go along with Bush’s Iraq attack.
Why did he do it? Speculation has ranged from the view that Blair regards the British-U.S. relationship as sacrosanct to the notion that he hoped to steer Bush toward a more internationalist approach to the Iraq crisis. But a recent revelation suggests that Blair may share Bush’s religious fervor on the issue. In a March television appearance, Blair suggested that God ordained the Iraq War.
“I think if you have faith about these things then you realize that judgment is made by other people,” Blair said. “By other people, by, if you believe in God, it’s made by God as well.”
In these comments, Blair subtly echoed Bush’s assertions that God had asked him to invade Iraq.
His bitter political experience due to Iraq seems to have finally chastened Blair’s enthusiasm for Bush’s military adventurism. In his press conference after the cabinet reshuffle debacle, Blair ruled out a nuclear option for Iran. “I don't know anybody who has even talked or contemplated the prospect of a nuclear strike in Iran, and that would be absolutely absurd,” he said.
Let’s hope that for once Blair is being truthful. If Blair gives any more support to Bush’s foreign policy disasters, it may finally put a full stop to his already imperiled political career.
Amitabh Pal is the Managing Editor of The Progressive magazine.
© 2006 The Progressive