Tag Archives: blair

Friedman: Vote Labour

Sizzle, Yes, but Beef, Too,” by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 22 April 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/22/opinion/22friedman.html.

Earlier, I wrote why the British should vote against the Conservative Party. Tom Friedman explains why the British should vote for Blair.

New York Times columnists are not allowed to endorse U.S. presidential candidates. Only the editorial page does that. But in checking the columnist rule book, I couldn’t find any ban on endorsing a candidate for prime minister of Britain. So I’m officially rooting for Tony Blair.

I’ve never met Mr. Blair. But reading the British press, it strikes me that he’s not much loved by Fleet Street. He’s not much loved by the left wing of his own Labor Party either, and he certainly doesn’t have any supporters on the Conservative benches. Yet he seems to be heading for re-election to a third term on May 5.

Indeed, I believe that history will rank Mr. Blair as one of the most important British prime ministers ever – both for what he has accomplished at home and for what he has dared to do abroad. There is much the U.S. Democratic Party could learn from Mr. Blair.

  • Because of Blair’s political bravery in supporting the Iraq War

In deciding to throw in Britain’s lot with President Bush on the Iraq war, Mr. Blair not only defied the overwhelming antiwar sentiment of his own party, but public opinion in Britain generally. “Blair risked complete self-immolation on a principle,” noted Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a pro-Democratic U.S. think tank.

Remember, in the darkest hours of the Iraq drama, when things were looking disastrous (and there have been many such hours), Mr. Bush could always count on the embrace of his own party and the U.S. conservative media machine and think tanks.

Tony Blair, by contrast, dined alone. He had no real support group to fall back on. I’m not even sure his wife supported him on the Iraq war. (I know the feeling!) Nevertheless, Mr. Blair took a principled position to depose Saddam and keep Britain tightly aligned with America. He did so, among other reasons, because he believed that the advance of freedom and the defeat of fascism – whether Islamo-fascism or Nazi fascism – were quintessential and indispensable “liberal” foreign policy goals.

  • Because of Blair’s expansion of globalization

The other very real thing Mr. Blair has done is to get the Labor Party in Britain to firmly embrace the free market and globalization – sometimes kicking and screaming. He has reconfigured Labor politics around a set of policies designed to get the most out of globalization and privatization for British workers, while cushioning the harshest side effects, rather than trying to hold onto bankrupt Socialist ideas or wallowing in the knee-jerk antiglobalism of the reactionary left.

  • Because of Blair’s conservative fiscal policies

And these improvements, which still have a way to go, have all been accomplished so far with few tax increases. The vibrant British economy and welfare-to-work programs have, in turn, resulted in the lowest unemployment in Britain in 30 years. This has led to higher tax receipts and helped the government pay down its national debt. This, in turn, has saved money on both interest and welfare benefits – money that has been plowed back into services, The Financial Times explained.

  • Because Blair will be a good lesson for the American Tory Democrat Party

Along the way, he has deftly eviscerated the Conservatives, leaving them with only their most fringe policies – another reason American Democrats could learn a lot from him. Their own ambivalence toward globalization and the new New Deal our country needs to make more Americans educated and employable in a world without walls, and their own ambivalence toward muscular diplomacy, cost Democrats just enough votes in the American center to allow a mistake-prone Bush team to squeak by in 2004. So if Mr. Blair does win in the U.K., I sure hope that Democrats in the U.S. are taking notes.

As Tom Friedman says, vote Labour.

The French to Save Tony Blair?

French opposition to EU treaty intensifies,” by John Lichfield, Independent, 4 April 2005, http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=626136 (From Democratic Underground).

The European Union is not the European union that France wanted. It is not the Future France wanted to create. Given that, it is not too surprising that the French are now euroskeptics

Hostility to the European Union constitution is hardening in France, despite increasingly desperate attempts by government and opposition leaders to rescue the collapsing “yes” vote before the referendum next month.

An opinion poll published yesterday showed that 55 per cent of French voters who had reached a decision were likely to reject the proposed new EU treaty in the vote on 29 May.

Worryingly for the “yes” camp, the latest survey – the sixth in a row to predict a “no” vote – shows an erosion of support for the treaty on the centre-right and a hardening of attitudes on the left.

Even when bribes are thrown in…

Senior political figures admit privately it may be impossible to turn around the extraordinary momentum gained by the no vote over the past three weeks. Efforts by the centre-right government last week to bribe public sector workers with an inflation-linked pay rise have had no immediate impact. Neither have dire warnings from President Jacques Chirac and others that a no would plunge European and French domestic politics into deep crisis. He will make his first major contribution to the campaign in a live television debate on Thursday

The new treaty or Constitution is, basically, stupid. It frightens a lot of people by giving the transnational European Union a lot of vague powers (which worries Britain) and vague talk about free markets (which worries that French). In America we would sign the treaty and ignore it, but the Euros take things more seriously.

The important news: French intrasigence may save Tony Blair’s political career. Tony Blair has promised a vote on the new treaty, which is deepy unpopular in Britain. Losing a vote of that importance would seriously harm Blair’s credibility. Further, if the other countries vote yes, Britain may be asked to leave the European Union.

However, a French no vote gives everyone cover. Great news!