The Magazine

No Regrets for Blair

The combative prime minister defends his Iraq policy to a skeptical party.

Oct 13, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 05 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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Blair entered the conference hall in Bournemouth faced with polls that showed that the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction that he had assured Parliament and the nation Saddam could deploy in 45 minutes had sapped trust in him. That loss of trust infected attitudes towards his domestic programs (crime, immigration, education, transportation, health care), none of which have been resounding successes, and made it possible for the halls to buzz with talk of a post-Blair era.

But such talk is not much more than that--talk. Blair will stand for a third term at the next election in about two years, and will win handily. The delegates may not be happy with his decision to back America despite the French-induced paralysis of the United Nations Security Council; the trade unions may be unhappy with his efforts to introduce a modicum of consumer choice and market mechanisms into the health service; Muslim delegates might wish he would be tougher on Ariel Sharon, but all, or at least most of these unhappy campers know a winner when they see one. Blair is their meal ticket, and only the loony left prefers anti-Americanism, socialist doctrinal purity, and consignment to permanent opposition, to Blairite pro-Americanism, reform of the welfare state, and continuance in power. The only threat to a continuation of the Bush-Blair alliance seems to be coming from our side of the Atlantic, where the president is headed for a far tougher fight for reelection than is his British ally.

As the conference ended, the delegates joined in singing the once-banned "The Red Flag," and the star of "Blair does Bournemouth" returned to No. 10 Downing Street, secure in the knowledge that the delegates, who had arrived shaken by polls showing the opposition Tories with a slight lead, left stirred by his promise to lead them to a record third term.

Irwin M. Stelzer is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, and a columnist for the Sunday Times (London).