BLAIR’S PYRRIC VICTORY
Martin Walker, a former chief correspondent for the Telegraph and now managing editor at UPI, has an assessment of Tony Blair’s recent trevails that are well worth reading:
Britain’s Tony Blair, looking some 20 years older and far more strained than the fresh-faced young prime minister who won his first general election victory in 1997, has now survived one of the great rites of passage of all politicians who aspire to greatness. He has seen his own doom, gazed into the abyss of defeat and personal humiliation, and survived.
In the space of 24 hours, he saw the great rebellion against his university reform bill crumple and fade, and his personal integrity has been vindicated by a senior judge, Lord Hutton, whose verdict was announced from the Royal Courts of Justice Wednesday.
There was “no duplicitous, dishonorable or underhand strategy” by the prime minister in the events that led up to the suicide of David Kelly, the Ministry of Defense expert on weapons of mass destruction who was exposed as the source behind the BBC’s allegation that Blair’s government “sexed up” the intelligence against Saddam Hussein to justify the war on Iraq.
Blair can breathe again. On Tuesday morning, he faced two mortal challenges to his leadership and to his political career, and by Wednesday afternoon he had overcome them both.
As Walker explains in the remainder of the article, alas, Blair has survived a weakened figure.
It’s a shame, really. Certainly, his courageous but highly unpopular stand with President Bush on Iraq cost him much support in his own party. But for a vote of confidence to come on such a trivial matter as making students contribute a nominal sum for their education is saddening. Although hardly unprecedented. The UK’s previous Labour PM, James Callaghan, was ousted over a garbage strike.