Paul Robinson

Thought police

Paul Robinson says the Tories are so frightened of challenging Blair on the war that their favourite think-tank will not tolerate dissent

When the remaining flotsam of 20 or so Conservative MPs wash up on dry land after the next general election, they may do well to consider why it was that during this Parliament, every time the credibility of Prime Minister Tony Blair sank further into the depths, the credibility of their own party sank with it.

If Tony Blair is George W. Bush’s poodle, the Conservative party is the poodle’s poodle or, as Jonathan Swift might have put it, the flea’s flea: ‘Naturalists observe, a flea/hath smaller fleas that on him prey,’ he wrote, ‘And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em,/and so proceed ad infinitum.’ Blair’s genius has been to make his political opponents complicit in his own crimes, so that when he suffers for them, so do they. In fact they suffer for them even more than his own party does, since the general public sees that many within the Labour party dislike the Prime Minister rather more than most Conservatives do. In the run-up to the war in Iraq, the Labour party at least had the virtue of a sizeable rebellion in its ranks. The Conservative party had no such thing. As a result, it cannot capitalise on the war scandals which have been revealed, and is taking much of the blame.

Oppositions are meant to oppose. Instead we have the creepy spectacle of Tory MP John Bercow writing crawling letters to Tony Blair saying, ‘Congratulations on your superb speech in the Iraq debate. On this subject, as on many other foreign affairs issues, you have provided outstanding statemanship.’ Not to be outsmarmed, the newly endorsed Conservative parliamentary candidate Michael Gove cries, ‘I can’t hold it back any more; I love Tony!’

The subservience extends beyond lip service. Take David Blunkett’s endless efforts to revoke every civil liberty all the way back to Magna Carta.

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