Back to the British


Back to the British election primer.

The Dynamics to Watch: Blair vs. Bush. The absolutely single-biggest liability for Tony Blair is that voters think that he is George W. Bush’s “poodle” and that he lied about Iraq. In fact, the latest Financial Times poll found that 62 percent of British adults believe Blair lied about Iraq; another poll for the Guardian found a majority who say he’s not trustworthy. The Lib Dems have been relentless in whacking Blair on this, and in recent days, the Tories (who supported the war, but have a lingering odor of imperial anti-Americanism) have joined in. While Blair’s support for the war and defense of his decision in the face of withering and personal opposition is admirable, his lack of personal support has dampened Labour enthusiasm. If Blair suffers for Iraq, he only has Bush to thank. If Blair is toppled, there could be a noticeable cooling of US-UK relations.

Blair vs. Brown. The tension between these one-time parliamentary officemates got particularly intense in the months leading up to the election. Years ago, Blair made a deal with Brown: he would stand for party leader, make Brown a very powerful Chancellor, and eventually step aside for Brown to take over. Their tensions reflect the tensions within the party: to many Labourites, Brown is one of them –- not the slippery Blair who “sold out” Labour principles. After jockeying with Brown and allowing the distance to grow, the Blairites realized that because of Iraq, Blair needed Brown to bring home the base. Since then, they have been inseparable on the campaign trail. Yet, there are enough Labour rebels that if the margin of victory dips below the triple digits and gets anywhere close to 50, the pressure on Blair to give way to Brown will be great.

Blair vs. Howard. The other night, after flipping between the Daily Show and that new HBO movie about FDR and his struggle with polio, I caught one of the BBC’s top political advisers being interviewed on C-SPAN. He made the key point to remember about Michael Howard: “Not only was he a member of the most unpopular cabinet in postwar British history, he was the most unpopular member of the most unpopular cabinet in postwar British history.” The nasty tone the Tory campaign has taken in the final few weeks has only underscored that point. Labour wants to make the choice between them and the Tories one between forward vs. back; Labour success vs. Tory failure. Check out this Labour party election broadcast (scroll down to “Remember?”); it’s the best use of Barbra Streisand in a political campaign since her November 2000 robo-calls to gay households in South Beach!

Update: TPM readers are just verklepmt over my reference to Barbra Streisand above. Yes, it’s not Streisand’s recording of the “The Way We Were” in the Labour party election broadcast linked above. However, since the song was written for her, first recorded by her, and inextricably tied up with her, I referenced it as a Streisand song. Thanks to all the readers who wrote in.