Friday, May 06, 2005

Tony Blair Stays... But Wounded

So, the British elections were the story of the week. For those who don't know, the British vote for their members of Parliament who then pick the prime minister, so the whole thing is a mix of local issues and a referendum of the guy in charge. Tony Blair will win an unprecedented third term as Prime Minister from the Labour Party, but he was greatly wounded in these elections.

His party once had a 161 seat majority. They're now down to 66. The Liberal Democrat party, their version of our Deaniacs, made impressive gains, as did the Tories who have been an ineffective opposition to Blair for a decade now. Blair won, but it was hardly a victory he could gloat about.

Blair's support for the war in Iraq, against the sentiment of voters in his country, hurt him the most. I think that commentators in the US, who criticized France and Germany over not supporting the war, should take note of this. In a democracy, leaders can't just ignore the will of the people. Blair has done a good job for England and he's really a Clintonesque figure who has found an effective way of pushing a liberal agenda while still embracing free markets and strong defense and his impressive record let him squeak by. A lesser politician, or a leader of a democracy that was more anti-war than the British would have been creamed. So, I think the critics of "old Europe" need to at least acknowledge that the leaders who opposed us in Iraq had an obligation to their people. Blair messed up on that front and his party suffered for it.

I've been saying that all along. Fine, I was against the war from the start, so seeing opposition in France and Germany was pleasing to me. But, I always said, if you respect democracy than you really can't criticize the leaders of those countries, or of Spain, which changed governments mid-war due to anti-war voters, or of Italy, where the population has recently turned against the war, just for listening to the will of their people.

If you really respect democracy, you're not sad for the Labour losses in Britain. You realize that Labour made the mistake of defying its own voters. This might be a tragedy for Blair, but I think it's good news for democracy. The people took note of his good record and kept him. But they also took note of his defiance and they punished him for it.


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