Not Cricket

August 21st, 2006

Not since the Social Democrat Party collapsed after a false start has a major political party in this country fallen from grace so shamefully. 1997’s ‘love in’ between England and New Labour began in good spirit, with the prospect of a justifiable Blair victory to balance out two decades that had already seen two long Conservative leaderships. A full house at Westminster enjoyed ‘spin politics’ at its best, skewed, indulgent and controlled – but nothing in the Chamber was as extraordinary as the way the trust ended outside it.

When one Minister, Peter Hain, applauded Blair’s first five years after admitting that the agenda had been tampered with, an upset and angry UK population worked on until tea. Even then their failure to refuse to pay taxes promptly allowed a chaotic display of aggression, in which first the US and then the UK governments appeared to order air strikes in Iraq. A country that prides itself on the spirit of fair play was plunged into a sad and resentful disharmony. This may have bitter consequences for both politics and international relations in this country.

Last year the black clouds gathering over The Oval Office mirrored the mood of the 20 UK and 22 US politicians inside it. The bewildered faces were not sure whether there would be a Middle East to exploit today – only later was it confirmed that the oil was secure and had been awarded to ‘The Coalition’. Past bad blood between Iran and the US sides had boiled over to produce an inexplicable stand-off: no evidence had been produced to support the suspicion of nuclear weapons.

The Police Complaints Commission remained silent on the policing issues last night. Labour insist that their protest at judges’ leniency was intended to be a brief and token one, but a dispute that began within the Cabinet ended with Mr Blair and his colleague, John Reid, refusing to rescind bad legislation. This turned an incident that could have been resolved into a childish and destructive stand-off. The dispute was not between the police and muslims, which should allow the forthcoming one day melas to continue. But it can only fuel the alienation felt by some British Muslims at a time of great strain.

Today all flights should have continued, with the lost time being made up – it is now clear that is not going to happen. In due course Mr Reid and his fellow officials should be asked to present their evidence to the public.

Today, Brown is predicted for the leadership and the man might in any case prove to be a washout. However, it is a shame that Blair’s pride, rather than necessity has brought the party to unnatural legislation.

Not the Guardian leader

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