opinion piece by Charles Moore in the Telegraph.
So I'm sticking by my theory, so far proved right in the two cases in which it has been tested, that all the main Iraq "warmongers" - George W Bush, John Howard in Australia and Tony Blair in Britain - will be re-elected.
Anglo-Saxon political culture still has enough self-confidence not to fear leadership in war, but to see it as a necessary attribute of a robust democracy. Which is a good thing.
It just happens to be unfortunate that, in this case, almost every other reason points to getting rid of Mr Blair and the Government he leads.
Why did the brave war leader not have the courage of his (mistaken) convictions about the euro, and put it to the test? Why does he remorselessly extend the scope and size and spend of the state, infantilising our politics in the process?
Why does he freeze our blood with talk of terrorists, yet move hell and earth to get them into government in Northern Ireland? Why does he not control immigration? Why does he disrespect our history and culture? Why does he fear freedom so much?
Gerard Baker made much the same point in yesterday's editorial in the London Times:
[Hat tip Melanie Phillips]
The lack of serious fiscal choice on offer is only a reflection of a broader surrender to the principle that government has the answers and the people should stop worrying their little heads about it. Every conversation one has in this country seems to start from the premise that everything that ails us can be put right by government — whether it is obesity or the decline of classical music.
And what exquisite irony! The one thing in the past four years that the Government really did get right — the deposing of a dangerous dictator and the liberation of 24 million people from tyranny — is now regarded in the closed circle of serious political discussion as an act of pure evil.
Of course, underpinning, sustaining and nourishing this consensus is a new Establishment that holds the British people in thrall to its supposedly progressive ideas. Its stultifying and baleful influence is transmitted by the clammy grip of its three main tentacles: the universities; the “experts”, and, above all, the media.
On every decision except the Iraq war, I disagree with the way that Tony Blair is leading Britain. But his behavior on the Iraq war was such a marvel of leadership and courage, one wants to forgive him his other sins. And Howard's leadership on this has been abysmal, ambivalent, hypocritical, not in the least farsighted. And extremely cowardly.
It is the quality of leadership under fire and vision in this matter that makes one want to reward Blair. Despite his other mistakes. To quote Moore again:
People keep on attacking Mr Blair about the war in Iraq because they see it as his weakest point. Certainly it displays his cavalier way with facts, his scorn for the process of government, his poor planning.
But it also shows qualities that are inextricably associated with leadership - courage, persuasiveness, energy, a big view about where his country's interests lie, a capacity for action and decision and, unlike Eden over Suez, a capacity to win.
If he had acted the other way - if he had turned aside from America, thrown in our lot with continental Europe, and withdrawn our troops from their global role - he would have reawakened all the old beliefs that Labour can't maintain our most important alliance, can't back our forces and is run from the Left.
The Tories would have had something to say at last, and a Conservative leader would be heading for Number 10.
Reportedly, Margaret Thatcher was so depressed by the state of the election, she's went to Italy, on holiday. Personally, I'd prefer to see a return to William Hague as Tory leader. Although considering an interview I saw with him on CSPAN 2, promoting his latest book, he seems not the least bit inclined right now. But he seemed to have more character than Howard, although I can't say I was following British politics as closely then, so my impression might be entirely wrongheaded. It's all so much easier to follow now.
But I used to love watching his Parliamentary duels with Blair on CSPAN. They were rapturously, dizzyingly clever, both ways. The kind of thing that made an American wish our statesmen had to be put to the test like that on verbal skills, one against the other. Reportedly, Blair used to go back to Downing Street quite depressed each time because Hague had slipped it to him once again.