Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Big Talker

Despite having his head handed back to him on a plate in both the local and the European parliament elections, Blair insists that, like Baroness Thatcher, he's not for turning. Then again, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice Davies, he would say that, wouldn't he?

Tony Blair has insisted he will not be forced to change direction by Labour's poor showing at last week's elections.
The prime minister said he was not "deaf to the voice of the electorate" but was convinced his decision to go to war in Iraq had been right.
And despite the UK Independence Party's gains in the European elections, he said he would not allow Britain to be "marginalised in Europe".
At his monthly news conference, he also promised a gear change on NHS reforms.

Eurosceptic threat
Labour and the Conservatives suffered their worst results for decades in the European elections, with UKIP more than doubling its 1999 vote to take 16% of the vote, pushing the Lib Dems into fourth place.
Tory leader Michael Howard has told his MPs he will not be blown off course by the elections.
UKIP quadrupled its number of MEPs from three to 12 with its best showing in the East Midlands, where it came within 0.3% of beating the Tories.
The Eurosceptic party's advances have put extra pressure on the prime minister as he tries to secure a deal on the proposed EU constitution.
Mr Blair said he wanted the right deal for Britain to emerge from the talks.
He said withdrawing from the EU, as advocated by UKIP, would be an "act of extraordinary foolishness".
"What we will not do is to marginalise Britain in Europe simply for the sake of it," he vowed.
Blair's still mouthing the same old platitudes about being in the "center" of Europe while trying to act unconcerned about the outcome of the elections, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Blair may not wish to appear a weak leader given to pandering to the whims of the electorate, but he surely must know by now that British antipathy towards "ever-greater union" isn't some sort of passing fad that can easily be dissipated by better "making the case for Europe", as he loves to put it. Either he starts to engage more seriously in defending British autonomy, whatever he might desire to the contrary, or Labour will pay the price at the ballot box. It isn't wise for Europhiles to think that they can simply ram ever-closer union down the public's throat either, just as long as they're willing to swallow the electoral damage; if the European Union is a body that can be joined, it can also be withdrawn from, and there is no better spur to such a movement than trying to forcefeed a people integration they don't want.

While we're at it, I really don't get the constant spin I've been seeing from various news sources that the Labour Party's weakness had anything to do with the war in Iraq; this looks to me very much like wishful thinking blinding reporters to reality. If it truly were the case that Iraq was the major issue behind voter discontent, one should have seen a far greater surge in the Liberal Democrats' share of the local elections vote than actually occurred, and the Tories, being even more pro-Iraq than Labour, ought to have witnessed an electoral collapse; instead, what we've seen in both elections has been a net rightwards swing towards Eurosceptic, Atlanticist parties. Iraq is not the issue - failed public-sector "reforms" and the European Union are.