The Drum Beats Again for Blair

Is Tony Blair finished?

That's the question the British media are asking amid speculation that the Prime Minister will soon resign or be forced from office.

The Economist says he should "quit while he is ahead." The Daily Telegraph, citing "members of his inner circle," reported last week that Blair would announce his resignation by Christmas. The Prime Minister, says the Financial Times, is in danger of finding himself "in office but not in power."

All of which means nothing, says Blair. On Monday the prime minister dismissed the speculation as "a soap opera," a view shared by The Times. A blogger for the liberal Guardian suggests "a bored and restless media" is hyping a non-story to boost readership.

But while speculation about Blair stepping down has bubbled up before, most recently in 2003, "the latest round of more serious speculation" is founded in grass roots discontent in the Labor Party, according to The Independent.

Across the country, Labor activists "are beginning to ask whether the leader who delivered three election victories is becoming a liability to the party," writes political editor Marie Woolf.

In 1990 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was forced from the job after more than 11 years in power when the Conservative Party rebelled against her leadership.

Pundits wondered last month if a similar rebellion might be afoot when 52 Labor MPs opposed Blair's plan introduce "trust schools" (comparable to U.S. charter schools) and other market-driven educational reforms. Blair had to rely on Conservative Party votes to win approval.

Recent news reports portray Blair's top aides in an "unprecedented" war of press leaks ("briefings" in the British political jargon) with aides of Gordon Brown, the treasury secretary who has been waiting in the wings for years to succeed Blair.

An informal committee, composed of representatives of the two factions, had been conferring regularly to formulate long-term plans for the transition from Blair to Brown, according to the Independent. "But in an ominous development for Labour, the committee has not met for several weeks."

All the while, Iraq lurks in the background. Blair's policy of supporting the U.S. invasion and reconstruction is more unpopular than ever, with even the once pro-war Daily Telegraph now calling for the swift withdrawal of British troops.

Forty-two percent of respondents to a poll in the News of the World tabloid taken late last week said Blair should quit "now."

"For the moment, the prime minister's answer to all this is to plough on regardless, suggesting he has a long list of business he is determined to finish before leaving office," says Nick Assinder, political correspondent for the BBC.

Blair supporters "are suggesting 2008 is the likely timetable for a handover to Gordon Brown," he writes.

"But what is absolutely certain," he adds, "is that the speculation over the precise timetable for his retirement is not going to go away and cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the running of the country."

By Jefferson Morley |  April 4, 2006; 9:12 AM ET  | Category:  Europe
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Blair was wrapped up the day he comitted to the Iraq invasion. Finished. Fortunately, the opposition had no viable alternatives, but that may no longer be the case. Iraq has drained much of the resources and confidence from New Labour. Gordon brown literally carried Blair on his back during the last election, and now Blair backstabs him whilst claiming the reverse.

Posted by: Mugwump | April 4, 2006 10:01 AM

And why, still, no mention by the Washington Post of the perage scandal that has engulfed Tony Blair and the Labour Party. The story is at least two weeks old?

And who's involved in the "loans for honours" debacle?

Lord Sainsbury, 6.5 million pounds
Christopher Ondaatje, 1.6 million pounds
Lord Drayson, 1.1 million pounds (here's one to keep your eye on if you don't know the backstory)
Sir Ronald Cohen, 1 million pounds
William Haughey, 1 million pounds
Chai Patel, lent 1.5 million pounds at commercial rates and has given 100,000 pounds
Sir David Garrard, loaned Labour more than 1 million pounds, donated more than 200,000 pounds
Barry Townsley, lent Labour 1 million pounds, donated 6,000 pounds
Amicus, 11,4 million pounds
Unison, 9.1 million pounds
GMB, 7.3 million pounds
TGWU, 6.3 million pounds

I'm sorry, I just don't understand the Washington Post's lack of coverage on this?

Posted by: Loomis | April 4, 2006 10:10 AM

People still don't get it.... Iraq invasion was absolutely necessary. A former general of SH has come forward saying there were indeed WMD's and we, unfortunatley gave SH enough time to hide them or destroy them... Blair and Bush are both strong leaders and the leaders we need for the times we are living in. Remember, the main stream media are only giving "their" agendas and report "only" the "bad" things going on over there.... and not the many many good things that go on.

Posted by: sherri | April 4, 2006 11:10 AM

Agreed: Blair lost all credibility when he backed Bush and his mad, murderous, and totally unnecessary adventure in Iraq. In fact, unlike the U.S., the U.K. actually takes international law seriously, so Blair could be held personally liable for war-crimes and crimes-against-humanity charges in The Hague. He is a huge liability to Labour, and the sooner they oust him and replace him with someone who -- like Zapatero in Spain, and soon, Prodi in Italy -- immediately pulls British troops from Iraq, the better.
Blair is a contemptible liar who knowingly colluded with Bush to misrepresent facts to the public so as to sell this criminal and destabilizing war.

Posted by: Tony | April 4, 2006 11:30 AM

A live based on lies should allways
end prematurely, like the empire.
This man belonged to a group of people
that caused major harm to humanity by dismissing basic human rights

Posted by: jwh | April 4, 2006 11:39 AM

Sherri --

Any sources on the former general who came forward saying that there were WMD's ? And why was the war absolutely necessary while there was a genocide going on in Africa and a stand-off was occuring with N. Korea regarding its weapons program?

Furthermore, given the fact that we had strategic bases in various positions around Iraq and our "spy apparatus" working overtime during the run-up to the war, I would think that it would be nearly impossible for Saddam to hide or destroy large caches of WMDs without us seeing something.

I think we "get it". The Iraq war has been a big drain on our economy and our bright leaders used our fears of another 9/11 - only bigger - to force us to accept it. We have no business in the middle east and the result of this war only shows why.

The Iraq-hid-WMDs myth has been long debunked. Here is an excerpt from a USA Today story on this:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-10-06-wmd_x.htm

Final report: Iraq had no WMDs
From staff and wire reports

"When the United States invaded Iraq last year to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or any facilities to build them, according to a definitive report released Wednesday.

"The 1,000-page report by chief weapons searcher Charles Duelfer, a document that President Bush said would represent the last word on the issue, confirms earlier findings and undermines much of the Bush administration's case about the Iraq weapons threat, though it does say Saddam intended to restart his weapons programs once United Nations sanctions were lifted."

This was posted in October of 2004. Since then, there has been no word of WMDs from the Bush administration and the only thing we hear is that they were just trying to rid the world of a menace.

Nobody loved Saddam, but if anything, there were bigger fish to fry before dealing with him. The minute we diverted our resources from Afghanistan to Iraq, Taliban warlords began developing strongholds in various places in the country. Probably not the smartest move on our part.

Posted by: Kamyar | April 4, 2006 11:51 AM

Mr. Morley
Ms. Sherry,

If some Iraqi general comes forward and says Iraq had WMD so what! People will do and say anything to curry favor. The fact is WMDs cost money and maintaining military programs of that sort are very, very expensive. Saddam had very little cash to spend on his military for a number of years before the invasion because of international sanctions. Also he and his family were busy little bees looting the country of money for their own benefit. To wit, estimated military expenditures in Iraq in the year prior to the Bush invasion were under $1 billion for the year. That is hardly enough to buy fuel for vehicles or even pay minimal salaries for the Iraqi armed forces.

Saddam didnt need WMDs after using them in the late 80s because he had the fruits of WMDs without having to pay for them anymore. Why is that so? Because he had people like the VP Cheney, and President Bush telling the world that he had them stashed all over the place. They did their best to misrepresent his profile so he looked like an 800 gorilla instead of a spiteful sick little monkey. They also claimed that the UN inspectors were incompetent and corrupt when they couldnt find the WMDs. What does that say about our team? It says we were either lied into a preemptive aggressive war or the post war occupation has been the most incompetent and colossal strategic failure in US history or both.

What I wonder is how did Tony Blair a genuinely smart guy, fall for such a cheap hustle?

Posted by: Red Ruffian | April 4, 2006 12:14 PM

No great shakes if he's out..... The teflon twins of Bush and Blair are running out of cover for their arrogant, almost medeival, superpower policy towards the muslim world.

Those two completely misread the cultural environment in the middle east, instead embarking upon colonial policies that have resulted in very unstable and adversarial political conditions.

No surprise that Dubya would be involved in imperialistic exercises since he probably read very little history to learn anything from it anyway.

Woulda' thunk that Blair would have been more cautious recognizing the long tradition of political debacles Great Britain experienced in its fall from Empire in the first half of the twentieth century that should have provided ample warnings against the narrowmindedness of Bush's policies.

Maybe if the US Congress changes enough to bring some sense to US governance w can at least neutralize his self-destructive tendencies.

Sadly though, unlike Britains who can dump their guy this year, we're stuck with the current resident of Pennsylvania avenue until January 2009.

Posted by: zippydw | April 4, 2006 01:16 PM

As an American, I would advise the British to dump Blair as soon as possible. Why is the Labor party being lead by a closet neoconservative.
If we are very lucky in America, maybe we can get Bush impeached after the 2006 election. Faint hope!

Posted by: P. J. Casey | April 4, 2006 01:36 PM

It's "Lobour" not "Labor". There's a u in it.

Posted by: jackob | April 4, 2006 02:24 PM

Sherri, I hear a post may be opening soon as White House Communications Chief. Nicole Wallace is rumoured to be heading out the door. You should apply.

Some are even saying Scott MacClellan's job will be available, but I doubt that as he's a Texas crony and his mum is pals with Bush.

Loomis the American newspapers will never cover foreign political scandals in great detail because from their perspective Britain is just one more small country among many.

What they should be covering is the fabrication of WMD evidence. The revelations from Britain go way beyond the Downing Street Memo.

While the process of fabricating WMD evidence in the States remains secret, in Britain the whole process has been laid bare. We've even seen numerous emails from Blair political hacks instructing intelligence officers to include this or that phony tidbit because it would make the case for war stronger.

For example, when intelligence said "Saddam might use WMDs if attacked", Blair's spindoctor Jonathan Powell emailed him saying "I have a bit of a problem" with the if-attacked qualifier. He told him to remove it, which he did. Suddenly Saddam's threat morphed from self-defence to attack.

Much of this stuff came out in testimony at the Hutton inquiry. Yet the US press' shallow coverage left Republicans crowing over Hutton as some sort of vindication, when in fact it proved conclusively that the evidence had been horribly twisted, edited and misrepresented by people who weren't even in intelligence.

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 02:44 PM

As for Blair, like Bush he's hoping something will come along to be his legacy that isn't Iraq. No chance.

Blair's name in the history books will be forever associated with fabricated intelligence, lapdog US relations, and brainless colonial wars.

I don't care whether he stays or goes. Brown's aides continually hint that he opposed the war. He had a funny way of showing it since he voted in favour.

Pack of liars: How to cook up a dodgy dossier for a dodgy war:

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/kelly/story/0,13747,1050931,00.html

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/kelly/story/0,,1130145,00.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3893065.stm

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2003/09/25/2003069191

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0301/29/i_ins.01.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3077830.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/hutton/story/0,13822,1048495,00.html

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 02:51 PM

As for Blair, like Bush he's hoping something will come along to be his legacy that isn't Iraq. No chance.

Blair's name in the history books will be forever associated with fabricated intelligence, lapdog US relations, and brainless colonial wars.

I don't care whether he stays or goes. Brown's aides continually hint that he opposed the war. He had a funny way of showing it since he voted in favour.

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 02:53 PM

He follows Bush like a puppet, he should resign, Where is George Galloway when we need him.

Posted by: Shag | April 4, 2006 03:17 PM

OD - you quote above - "when intelligence said "Saddam might use WMDs if attacked". . .
well, this implies UK intel actually thought Saddam had some WMDs, doesn't it? Because Saddam certainly acted as though he did. And most every intel service thought he did.
and here's a question for the 'they lied' folks - why would Bush and Blair lie about WMDs and then advocate the very means - invasion - that would eventually expose their supposed lie? Presumably even Bush is smart enough to have realized if he said there were WMDs, and none were found, he'd look bad. . .

Posted by: EC | April 4, 2006 04:36 PM

...of course Bush has 3 more years and Blair serves at the pleasure of his party. If they want him out, he's gone. If not, he stays.

regardless of what the media writes.

Posted by: cc | April 4, 2006 05:40 PM

The American GOP has had some great teachers on the other side of the Atlantic. When I lived in the UK in the mid '70's, my school-pals were constantly re-living their glory-filled imperialist days fighting Hitler. Sadly, it's taken 30 years for the poor Brits to figure out that they no longer "rule the waves."
Judging by the arrogance of the Bushies, this country will be smouldering cinders before these lowlifes figure it out. If ever.

Posted by: David Ellis | April 4, 2006 06:03 PM

Interesting logic, EC. I tell a story that's a clear example of lying and you say it shows they told the truth.

I never doubted that they believed they'd find a few old mustard shells, and they also rightly figured that they'd be able to sell this to the general public as a vindication, since the public knows nothing about weapons.

Where they lied was in claiming (a) an ongoing chemical production program, (b) a biological program, (c) a nuclear program, (d) their ludicrous hinting that Iraq could somehow deliver such weapons to the west, and (e) the idea that there was a threat from Iraqi WMD.

I tried to put up a bunch of links to show the amazingly brazen process of cooking the intelligence in Britain, which was revealed in the testimony of intel officers at the Hutton Inquiry, but it keeps getting "held by the blog owner."

I'll try again.

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 07:14 PM

Nope, didn't work. Maybe Morley will post them later.

EC, the question of whether they lied was comprehensively settled for everyone who actually looked into it in any detail.

Only those who want to believe it was an honest mistake still do believe that.

Posted by: OD | April 4, 2006 07:16 PM

practically everyone in power pre war thought Iraq had chem and bio weapons. and with reason - they'd used them vs. the Kurds. also recall that Saddam's son in law defected to Jordan for a time in the mid 90s with tales along these lines, and that Iraq didn't account for the fate of the weapons found post Gulf War. recall too the surprise after the Gulf War that Iraq had been so far along in its nuke program.

Given this, there are 2 possibilities. Bush and Blair could've have shared this belief. Or, as you claim, they could have known for a fact Iraq didn't have such weapons, but decided to wage war on Iraq anyway, even though that war would disprove their claim. The former seems more likely, given what one knows of politicians and their motivations. or people for that matter.

(None of this means they didn't hype the threat - maybe they did, or maybe they were just scared as hell after 9/11 and inclined to see threats where none existed.)

Posted by: EC | April 4, 2006 10:29 PM

I will not be forced out by US and UK, says Iraqi PM Leader's first interview since Rice and Straw's move to break deadlock

Jonathan Steele in Baghdad, Wednesday April 5, 2006, The Guardian

(snip)

Using the argument that the US and Britain had toppled Saddam in order to bring democracy, he turned it against them. "There is a decision that was reached by a democratic mechanism and I stand with it ... We have to protect democracy in Iraq and it is democracy which should decide who leads Iraq. We have to respect our Iraqi people," he said.

Tampering with democracy was risky, he insisted. "People will react if they see the rules of democracy being disobeyed. Every politician and every friend of Iraq should not want people to be frustrated," he said. "Everyone should stick to democratic mechanisms no matter whether they disagree with the person," he added pointedly.

Posted by: God of Gods | April 4, 2006 11:26 PM

sherri: People still don't get it.... Iraq invasion was absolutely necessary.

Wow, with just one hundred persons like Sherri i could rule the world: Mwahaha! Mwahaha! Mwahaha!

Absolutely necessary?

She must listen to some teeny tiny a.m. radio station coming outta some ham radio in the deep dark south where the earth is just a few years old.

God save us from the Sherris of the world


Posted by: Sword of Truth | April 4, 2006 11:31 PM

Remember though EC, that these weapons typically have shelf lives of 3-7 years and the factories were mostly destroyed in the 1991 war. Also the UN inspectors did continue destroying stuff through the nineties. They were reporting good cooperation in 2003, following all the US/UK tips about sites and finding nothing. Then the US ordered them to leave and has never allowed them back in.

Posted by: OD | April 5, 2006 02:26 AM

The exuberance of this boy's shamelessness wafts through the souls of those blown to atoms in the sands of Basra, bourse-stuffing that much further the wadded flanks of the entitled. But, hey, comrades, that's British social democracy for you.

Posted by: Reynolds | April 5, 2006 08:17 AM

I think most people believed Iraq had WMD before the invasion, I did. The point though was that suspicion wasn't enough. While I thought there probably was WMD in Iraq, I wasn't sure. Neither was Bush and Blair, they gambled, and lost.

Blair has spent the last year or so thrashing around looking for something to be his legacy. Last year it was debt relief for Africa and his latest attempt is a boost to the state pension (something opposed by Gordon Brown).

Labour is losing patience with Blair though. He's unlikely to make it through to a year before the next election as he probably hopes and he's running an ever greater risk that he'll be booted out of Number 10, just like his idol, Maggie, was.

Posted by: DavidP | April 5, 2006 08:35 AM


http://www.waynemadsenreport.com/

April 5, 2006 -- The GOP's family values. While the mainstream media has ignored the sex perverts who dominate the Bush administration, from senior White House officials to lower level political appointees in various federal agencies, WMR has repeatedly reported on what amounts to a "wink and nod" cabal of individuals who represent anything but the much-ballyhooed GOP "family values." It helps to explain how a male prostitute managed to gain access to White House press conferences.

Bush administration appointees have been keeping Maryland police particularly busy. A few weeks after White House domestic policy adviser Claude Allen was arrested for shoplifting from Target and Hecht's stores, Department of Homeland Security Brian Doyle, who worked overtime to justify his department's sky marshal's shooting an unarmed mentally disturbed airline passenger in the back at Miami International Airport, was arrested in his Silver Spring home on 23 counts relating to the solicitation of sex from an undercover Polk County detective posing as a 14-year old girl. In one of the photographs of himself that Doyle sent to the detective, his Department of Homeland Security security badge lanyard is clearly visible. Doyle also revealed to the detective that he worked at Homeland Security and provided his official office and cell phone numbers to her.

The news about Doyle broke after Clifton Bennett, the 19-year old son of Arizona's GOP Senate President Ken Bennett was charged with sodomizing 18 boys who were between the ages of 11 and 14 at an Arizona youth camp. Bennett and a friend were charged with sodomizing the youths with broom sticks and flashlights. WMR has previously reported that similar abuse of underage teens at Abu Ghraib was videotaped and the tapes were made available to senior White House staff for "entertainment" purposes. The Taguba report mentions that prisoners at Abu Ghraib were sodomized by glow sticks.

From WMR, Nov. 18, 2005:

There is good reason for the embarrassment of the Pentagon in the affair. The orders to take the sexually-oriented photos and videos, some of which involve teenage Iraqi boys and girls and sodomization by their guards, came directly from a pedophile and closeted male homosexual ring operating in the White House, according to the intelligence sources. Copies of the tapes and photos were sent directly to the White House for the entertainment of senior members of the Bush White House, including officials in the Vice President's office and the Executive Office of the President.

When the photos at Abu Ghraib became public, the senior military command structure in Iraq "went nuts," according to an individual who witnessed the cover-up of the affair. "They ordered an immediate policy of denial about details of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib," said the source. The source added that senior officers were disgusted that lower ranking guards were prosecuted and jailed when the order for the mistreatment came directly from the White House.

Posted by: che | April 5, 2006 10:16 AM

Sherri

Thank God people like you "get it"... It's simply that the vast majority of the world population is just plain silly.

Poor thing, all alone!

Posted by: Robert Rose, Canada | April 5, 2006 10:30 AM

DavidP: I think most people believed Iraq had WMD before the invasion, I did.

Most people?

There are relatively very few people in the world with the means and the expertise needed to assess the threat from the WMD of SH.

These very few people said SH was NOT a threat.


Posted by: God of Gods | April 5, 2006 12:34 PM

What I meant was the opinion of the average person. If asked whether they thought Iraq had WMD most would have said yes. The point I was making was that this wasn't an informed decision. That Bush and Blair decided to attack long before the inspectors were finished. I think they didn't feel Saddam was a real threat to the west. They were just looking for a good enough reason to do what Bush had been itching to do since before 911 - take out Saddam Hussein. So that's why they were presenting what little evidence they had in the strongest light possible. They probably expected to find some sort of WMD, even if it was in just small quantities.

If they'd waited until Saddam Hussein had started obstructing the inspectors (as he inevitably would have) they'd have had stronger grounds for invasion.

Launching the attack when the proof of WMD was so flimsy and insubstantial was the first major hole in the credibility of the whole enterprise.

Blair's credibility never recovered. While Iraq is not the issue on everyone's lips in the UK (probably because the majority of the UK has always been against the war so it was never a major debating issue between us) it is just one of many areas making Blair a liability.

I just wonder if he has the sense to jump before he's pushed. The May elections will be a big test and then there's the party conference in the summer. His fate will be clearer by then.

Posted by: DavidP | April 6, 2006 05:49 AM

Just a nitpick with the phrase "the liberal Guardian": The Guardian stopped being a "liberal" (modern US definition) newspaper some time ago, preferring as a matter of policy to remain largely sympathetic to what has become the most authoritarian government the UK has seen for at least a hundred years. While there are honourable exceptions amongst its staff and contributors (see, for example, )the Guardian's management has pushed the newspaper to the right of centre - and way to the right of its traditional readership.

The Independent ()is the nearest thing to a liberal "quality" newspaper that the UK now possesses.

Posted by: PJB (UK) | April 6, 2006 12:34 PM

Oops: I'll try that again; the WAPO blog system appears to snip URLs typed within > and < symbols...

Just a nitpick with the phrase "the liberal Guardian": The Guardian stopped being a "liberal" (modern US definition) newspaper some time ago, preferring as a matter of policy to remain largely sympathetic to what has become the most authoritarian government the UK has seen for at least a hundred years. While there are honourable exceptions amongst its staff and contributors (see, for example, www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1747669,00.html)the Guardian's management has pushed the newspaper to the right of centre - and way to the right of its traditional readership.

The Independent (www.independent.co.uk/)is the nearest thing to a liberal "quality" newspaper that the UK now possesses.

Posted by: PJB (UK) | April 6, 2006 12:39 PM

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