WEB EXCLUSIVE COLUMN: British prime minister faces tough election

Michael McLaughlin

An embattled leader who conducted a hard push for a war, which the majority of his populace has since turned against, is forced to stand for re-election. His once astronomically high approval rating has plummeted to the point where what once seemed a slam-dunk election against a disorganized and demoralized opposition looks as though it will be a tight race. A description of the U.S. presidential election last November? Nope. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is going through much the same problem that President Bush did six months ago.

The truth of the matter is that while Bush was in a great deal of danger heading into election night, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Blair, as Labour — the British political party that leans to the left — appears to be a shoe-in for a third-straight term in government. And while the polls show Labour with a narrow three-point lead in the majority of the latest polls, it is believed that due to the distribution of seats in parliament, the Tories (Conservatives) would need to win the election by 11 percentage points to actually be able to form the government. Seeing as they only had one lead in the last 40 polls, according to the BBC poll tracker, and that lead was of a single point, the possibility of a Tory government is extremely remote.

While this same type of thinking led to Labour’s losing “in-the-bag” elections in 1970 and 1992, it will take something miraculous to overcome the simple transformation of politics in Britain, which Blair has managed to pull off, turning the once uber-incompetent Labour party into an extremely efficient party.

As for the other two major parties in Britain: The Liberal Democrats is the party that was actually, at least in the eyes of a majority in Britain, right on the war in Iraq and has a fairly sensible manifesto of strong civil liberties combined with an economic policy, which is generally to the right of both the other two parties. If it actually had a chance in hell of winning more than 100 out of 646 in Parliament, it might be the best choice, but instead The Liberal Democrats will probably just open the door for the Conservatives.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, has seemingly learned nothing from the old problems of Thatcherism. While conceding much of Labour’s fiscal spending policies, he has pushed for a tax cut, which, if implemented, would plunge Britain into a massive deficit crisis (sound familiar?). This, combined with his stridently anti-immigration plank that many have accused of being covertly racist, has hurt the Tories’ electoral chances, to the point where it seems that Howard and the Tories can not win — only Blair and Labour can lose.

Yet, with new revelations about Blair’s ignoring the advice of the War Office (according to the London’s The Guardian) before entering the war and the general feelings of mistrust and antipathy within much of the electorate, it’s possible — if not probable — that he could be back in the role of opposition leader come May 6. And for that reason, I know what I’ll be doing Thursday night — watching C-SPAN’s feed of the BBC’s election coverage.

Michael McLaughlin is a senior history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].