The Spectator

Don’t mimic Blair

Labour’s poll lead is not down to Blair’s popularity but to Tory failure

It may seem trivial, when so many thousands lie dead on the shores of the Indian Ocean, but we are now perhaps 14 weeks from a general election, and it is time to consider the apparent — the appalling — success of the Labour government. In circumstances that would be almost fatal to a Tory administration, Mr Blair has just lost a close Cabinet colleague. He has recently returned from Baghdad, where he saw the catastrophic consequences of the coalition operation in Iraq. Many of us who supported the war did so in the hope that it would be in the interests of the Iraqi people. Those hopes now look forlorn. As for the government’s stated justification for the war, that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, this magazine never believed it, and in so far as the Prime Minister deceived Parliament and public about the extent of the threat, we continue in our view that he deserves to be impeached.

Mr Blair has led a government that has been legislatively profligate on an unprecedented scale, and the fiscal consequences of that legislation are now being felt. In November, the Treasury was forced to borrow £9.4 billion, £2 billion more than forecast, and the one certainty of a Labour victory is that it will be followed by tax rises of around £10 billion, partly to pay for the 500,000 public sector jobs created since 1997. Pensions have been fleeced. Hospitals are infested with lethal bugs; householders are murdered by burglars — but how does the political Nikkei respond? Labour’s lead rose by two points following Mr Blunkett’s resignation, giving Blair the prospect of a whopping 150-seat majority on 5 May.

Does the Prime Minister really command such a perverse loyalty in the electorate? He does not.

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