Labour is heading for a historic third term, no thanks to Tony Blair. Commentators are blaming him for Labour losing a lot of seats. Its majority is expected to be cut down to around 70 seats this time, a big loss compared with the thumping 160-plus majority it won in the 2001 elections. And the losses are blamed on the Iraq war. Commentators keep saying it was an unpopular war which cost Labour dearly in the elections. People who might have voted Labour cast their ballots for the Liberal Democrats, who consistently opposed the war.
But any election is also a question of leadership: whether the voters trust their leader. And Blair has been losing trust. The Conservative leader Michael Howard called him a liar. Blair did mislead the people — maybe not deliberately — when he claimed Saddam possessed weapons of destruction.
And he continues to blow hot and cold over his future. He went into the elections saying it will be his last term. He promised to hand over power before the end of the term. He hinted he would make way for Chancellor Gordon Brown to be the next Labour prime minister. But later he said he intended to serve a full term. Such hankering for office is natural for a politician, of course, but it does raise questions about Blair’s trustworthiness.
He may be faithful to Cherie and faithful to Bush, but in British politics, he is the Artful Dodger.