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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Friday | July 18, 2003

Blair loses ground

By Steve Gilliard

Despite a well-received speech by PM Tony Blair today before Congress, the Independent ran a story which says the next issue of the New Statesman ( a British opinion magazine akin to Harpers or the Atlantic, but more fun) debated whether he was psychotic or a psychopath.

Brown's supporters launch revenge attack and label Blair a 'psychopath'
By Andrew Grice Political Editor
18 July 2003

Supporters of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, have launched an extraordinary attack on Tony Blair, portraying him as a "psychopath" and "psychotic".

Blair loyalists are furious about a string of hostile articles about the Prime Minister in the current edition of New Statesman magazine, which is owned by Geoffrey Robinson, a former Treasury minister and a close ally of Mr Brown.

What's the point of Tony Blair?
John Kampfner
July 21 2003

Even Downing Street trusties now talk of new leaders. But while MPs debate whether he is expendable, the PM prepares for a third election victory. By John Kampfner

The Westminster village may be posing the wrong questions. It is not: Can he survive? It is not: At what point will he stand down? It is not: Has Iraq found him out? It is: What's the point of Tony Blair? Why is he there?

This stuff ain't subtle. You'll have to be a subscriber or pay to see the article, but its strong words.

But Blair's problems go way beyond Gordon Brown's friends calling him a nutter.

Blair's admission before Congress set back his Whitehall critics on his heels:

Can we be sure that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will join together?

Let us say one thing: If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering.

That is something I am confident history will forgive.

But if our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fibre of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership.

That is something history will not forgive.

Except he said Iraq was a direct threat to his neighbors. He has no room to go back on his word. A finding of no WMD will surely explode into a major scandal for Blair and his Labour party supporters. With intense pressure on MP's because of their support for the Iraq war, tossing Blair over the side may become a first resort, if the heat gets hot enough. Bitter words from the parents of dead British soldiers already haunt him. To find there was no threat to US and British forces would undermine him.

The BBC's website runs the following story:

Senior UK Whitehall sources no longer believe weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq, the BBC has learned

BBC political editor Andrew Marr said "very senior sources" in Whitehall had virtually ruled out the possibility of finding the weapons.

They believe they did exist - but were hidden or destroyed by Saddam Hussein before the war.

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the admissions were a "dramatic development" and ex-Prime Minister John Major has called for a full independent inquiry into the basis for war

Yet there is a far more critical issue he's facing: the possible trial and execution of two British citizens at our gulag at Gitmo. Without a consession over these men, transfer either to US civil courts or British custody, Blair could face a true rebellion in Labour ranks. The two men were offered a chance to plead out to 20 year sentences or face a possible death penalty. Which when announced in the UK outraged a wide segment of the House of Commons and the general public.

Captive Britons on Blair's agenda

Among them was the fate of two British men being held as suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay camp.

There are concerns among civil rights campaigners and even cabinet ministers that the men - Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abbasi - might not have a fair trial in a US military court and could face the death penalty.

Comments by the US president, during a joint press conference with Mr Blair, that the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are "bad people" will have intensified those concerns

There is a real fear that these men may well face execution in what many in the UK are calling a "kangaroo court."

So while Blair received the thanks of the Congress, the new Statesman began the opening volley in debate to define life after Tony Blair. Debating whether he's a psychopath or merely "potty" is not exactly the way Blair wanted this moment to be remembered in the UK.

Posted July 18, 2003 02:31 AM


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