Not Saussure

September 7, 2006

Time to move on there, please… nothing to see…

Filed under: Panic, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 7:37 pm

At last we have the great man’s statement on his future, so presumably that’s it all settled, then. Mind you, he’s been pretty remarkable; despite all the fuss about his departure, he’s managed — or maybe Margaret Beckett managed — to find the time to sort out some problems in the Middle East: ‘We’ve got the blockade on the Lebanon lifted, today’*.

Well done Tony; quite what his role in getting the blockade lifted is unclear to me, but I’m sure they couldn’t have done it without him. And, notwithstanding his ability to sort out such intractable problems notwithstanding being distracted by all this kerfuffle about his retirement plans, he clearly can’t be operating on top form. As he says,

You know, there are important things going on in the world.

And I think I speak for all my Cabinet colleagues when I say that we would prefer to get on with those things because those are the things that really matter and really matter to the country.

Well, precisely. The threat of terrorism, for example, which 73% of the public, according to recent Times/Populus survey, think is ‘significantly increased’ by

the British Government’s foreign policy, especially its support for the invasion of Iraq and refusal to demand an immediate ceasefire by Israel in the recent war against Hezbollah in Lebanon

and which 62% of the public think HMG could reduce were it to

change its foreign policy, in particular by distancing itself from America, being more critical of Israel and declaring a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq.

The point isn’t necessarily whether the public’s got it right or not; Blair’s problem is that there’s a substantial body of opinion that think he, and the foreign policy with which he’s saddled us, are a large part of the problem.

He’s presumably going to carry on doing what he genuinely believes is the right thing, despite what anyone else says and what the evidence later seems to show; he’s always made a virtue of this, and there’s no reason for him to stop now.

It’s not unreasonably, surely, for the public to ask the candidates to succeed Mr Blair what they think of his foreign policies — whether it’ll be more of the same or what — and they can hardly speak frankly about this while he’s still in office. Moreover, the government’s going to have to carry on taking decisions about such weighty matters and the cabinet is expected to support the PM. Seems a bit invidious, does it not, to force potential successors to resign — possibly from very senior positions — if they’re asked to support a policy that they hope to change in a few months’ time.

To my mind, he should go as soon as possible. There’s no pressing business that requires his staying on to complete in the next few months; all the major problems will require his successor’s attention. He can’t realistically announce anything new — not that that’ll stop him, of course — because he won’t be around to carry it through.

He’s neither use nor ornament while he stays; his argument against giving a firm committment about when he’s leaving was always that it would make him a lame duck of sorts. Well, now, in effect, he’s done that — we he’s going in the next year, so what’s the advantage in his asking the Queen to present a Queen’s speech full of bright wheezes that may not even be introduced by the time he announces he’s going?

I’m completely baffled, by the way, by this:

I think it’s important for the Labour party to understand, and I think the majority of people in the party do understand, that it’s the public that comes first and it’s the country that matters, and we can’t treat the public as irrelevant bystanders in a subject as important as who is their prime minister.

What role, I wonder, does he foresee for the public in the selection process, other than as a factor in the calculations of the MPs when they vote? I’d always thought that the Queen graciously asked the person who best commands a majority in the House of Commons to form her government for her.

The only look-in the public gets is at a general election, and in every election in living memory — possibly in history — considerably more people have voted for parties other than the one that eventually forms the government, and would presumably rather have seen someone than the eventual incumbent installed in Number 10.

*UPDATE: Now I see what Blair was on about; all this leadership business meant he had to take his eye off the ball, and look what happened:

Daily Telegraph

Israel breaks promise to open Lebanese ports

(Filed: 07/09/2006)

Israel has lifted its air blockade of Lebanon but says it will continue to block access to the country’s ports until a UN force is deployed in the region.

The U-turn – Israel pledged yesterday to lift both the air and sea cordons – came after protests within Israel against what was seen as a capitulation.

Shame on you, Gordon! Now say ‘Sorry’ to the Lebanese.

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