New Sisyphus, a US foreign service officer, has a very important post on the coming election in the United Kingdom. There are three major parties in the UK: Labour (or New Labour as under Tony Blair); the Tories, the party of Margaret Thatcher, that has stumbled badly and lost direction; and the Liberal Democrats, a party even more to the left than Labour.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has lost a great deal of confidence of the English electorate, and while he had taken many plays from the Clinton playbook of co-opting the opposition and finding a "third way", New Labour is becoming more like old Labour.
I have a great deal of respect for PM Tony Blair, who has been the staunchest US ally since Winston Churchill, surpassing even the esteemed Mrs. Thatcher. However, the war in Iraq cost Mr. Blair a good deal of popular support. While the Tories have been in the political wilderness, they could win by voter dissatisfaction with the status quo.
New Sisyphus sums up the election:
"The real astonishing news is the continued rise of the fanatically pro-European Union Liberal Democrats, a party which, in our estimation, is absolutely astonishing in its ability to be wrong on just about every important issue of the day, foreign or domestic. The depressing reality is that more than 1 in 5 Britons now fervently agree that they should be ruled by Belgians and Italians rather than Parliament and that somehow a vague concept of “human rights”, which is nothing more than the established prejudices of a left-wing social order, has the force of 'law.'...
The fact is that the Tories have always had more than a strong element of anti-Americanism in its ranks. This fact, along with the natural opportunism of an opposition poised to take advantage of the governing party’s support for a deeply unpopular war, has bred a new sort of Conservatism, the kind that can rise in Parliament and ask the Prime Minister, “How many Iraqi women and children must die before the Americans have their vengeance in Falluja?”
There is a reason Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, has not been invited to the White House, as have virtually all of his predecessors. Nor was the Conservative Party delegation given a very warm welcome back at the RNC in 2004. Riven by incompatible positions on the only question that matters—that of Europe—the Conservatives have become a party of mush that offers nothing except platitudes and snarky comments.
We never thought we would say this, but……British friends: please vote for the socialist."
Dawn's Early Light could not agree more. The Tories have given little reason to the average UK voter to reconsider them.
The Economist sums up the election this way and explains the oddness of a party putting forward a candidate that will not serve until the next election:
"But it isn't just the war. Other factors also make for uncertainty. One is the curious proposition which Labour is putting to the electorate. For the first time ever, a prospective prime minister is going into an election committed to leaving office before the end of the new government's term. So people who opt for Labour will be voting partly for Mr Blair and partly for somebody else—probably, though not absolutely certainly, Gordon Brown. In a system which concentrates as much power in one man's hands as Britain's does, this prospect makes it hard for the electorate to know exactly what it is voting for.
The Tories have become more like New Labour, which could set up the Liberal Democrats to be a big spoiler in the election, much like H. Ross Perot was in the 1992 election:
The domestic debate is also up for grabs. Not that there are huge policy differences between the two main parties: the Tories, seeing that Labour made itself re-electable in 1997 by adopting and adapting Tory ideas, have decided to play Labour at its own game, and many of their plans are hard to distinguish from the government's. At the same time, the answers on the big domestic policy question, of whether the government has delivered value for money in public services, are nuanced: things have got a bit better, but not much."
The next few weeks of the campaign will be interesting. The War on Terror requires the United States to have a steady committed partner. With the EU-3 working on Iran, and the British commitment to rebuilding Iraq, and the UK role of bridging the gap between the US and Europe, it would be best to see continuity of leadership. Hopefully Tony Blair will retain his address at 10 Downing Street.