I bet I know what Tony Blair dreams about at night. I’ll bet that while he is tossing, turning and crying out in his sleep, his dreams transport him to the dusty, fetid alleyways of Baghdad. There, he strides forth like a grand, confident colossus surrounded by a squadron of husky, shaven-headed Royal Marines. Gaggles of excited Iraqi children bay and yap around the fringes of this entourage, hoping that the Great White Leader From Across the Seas will stoop to confer some benediction on their tiny heads. But he cannot stop. He is too busy. He is too single-minded. He knows what he wants and he is determined to find it. All other priorities are rescinded and greeting the thronged masses of downtown Baghdad will have to wait.
Suddenly, through the whirls of settling dust, he spots it. A big warehouse miraculously untouched by Cruise missiles or JDAMs. He points. “There” he says, “that’s where they are”. Tony and his bodyguards break into a trot and then a run as they draw near to the entrance of the warehouse. One of the squaddies produces a bolt-cutter and snips off the padlock with a flourish. The great doors are swung wide open and, inside, gleaming and shimmering with pointy Ba’athist menace is a phalanx of stonking, great missiles, each one marked ‘London’, ‘Manchester’, Birmingham’, Leeds etc.
“I was right, I was right” yells Tony triumphantly. “I told them so. I told them Hussein had WMDs and they didn’t believe me. Well I’m going to make them eat their weasel-words. I’m going to shove it right up ’em and show ’em whose boss and….. …and then he wakes up, sweaty and delirious. The ochre light of another smoggy London dawn is breaking through the cracks in his curtains. The dream is over for another night, but the nightmare just goes on:
Tony Blair’s denial that he exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons is called into question today by fresh accusations that Downing Street distorted a second Iraq dossier.
There is no underestimating the seriousness of this for Mr.Blair. The press pack is at his throat, his ‘old’ Labour colleagues have their daggers drawn and even the Conservatives have flickered back into animation with a non-stop barrage of awkward questions in parliament (complete opportunism on their part of course but Blair would be doing exactly the same thing if he was in their shoes and, besides, party politics is a dirty, rotten business).
As long as the British and American teams scouring Iraq are unable to turn up anything more ominous than a can of Raid, Blair is very vulnerable. I don’t think he lied to take us into a war, but it is starting to look as if he lied to take us into a war and, for politicians, perceptions are everything.
This doesn’t just look bad it has also come at a bad time. There is a vast undercurrent of hitherto unfocussed discontent is this country about rising crime, asylum-seekers, failing state schools, crumbling state hospitals and, lest we forget, the pending EU constitution. Britain is a land of incoherent complaints and grumbles that could easily amalgamate and find focus on the issue of Iraq’s WMDs (or lack thereof). Even the famously indifferent Brits are unlikely to forgive or forget a fabricated cassus beli.
Now, contrary to what some are saying (and I note that Stephen Pollard is already hammering the nails into Blair’s political coffin) I don’t think Blair will necessarily be undone by this. The problem is serious but he has the advantage that all of his opponents are ugly, unelectable, incompetent or a melancholy combination of all three. Blair may yet possess the political smarts to sidestep the lot of them.
Be that as it may, the really interesting thing is that, regardless of whether or not Mr.Blair stays in No.10, his stock is down and is unlikely to rise again. The Iraq war gave him no ‘khaki kick’ whatsoever, despite the impressive performance of our armed forces and the relatively low casualty figure. In fact, it only seems to have reinforced the impression with a jaded public that he is strutting, grand-standing egotist who promises much but delivers little. Regardless of whether or not Iraqi WMDs are eventually unearthed, Blair’s image has been tarnished and torn and, from hereon in, he is damaged goods.
But that must be juxtaposed with an article I came across a few days ago (cannot find link now, sorry) to the effect that, in the USA, Blair is held in even higher regard than George Bush. Perhaps Mr.Blair’s next recurring dream will involve the arrival of a gilt-edged invitation from the Democrat National Committee?