Friday, October 01, 2004

Another one for Blair 

Tony Blair had a pretty stunning victory on the issue of Iraq at the Labour Party annual national conference. The media build up to the event was quite spectacular, with large sections of the media and the commentariat salivating over the prospect of Blair's own party kicking him in the balls for his principled pro-war and pro-Bush stance, so out of character for a Labour Party leader.

To bring you up to speed, the left-wing of the Labour Party has put up a motion that Britain should withdraw its troops from Iraq. Had the motion passed, it would have been a humiliation for Blair who has staked so much of his political capital on this cause.
In the end, more than 85% of the delegates voted down the motion, affirming at the same time that the Brit troops are in Iraq in accordance with the UN resolution and at the invitation of the provisional government, and would therefore stay there for as long as the Iraqi government wanted them to.

My favorite headline so far comes from ABC:
"Blair Avoids Defeat Over Troops in Iraq" which is rather like a headline in 1945 "Allies Avoid Defeat Over War With Hitler."

It wasn't all Blair's charisma and control of the bully pulpit that got him the desired result, although I'm sure there was that too. As it often happens in politics, all sorts of horse-trading went on behind the scenes, and the
big four British trade unions are believed to have been convinced in time to support Blair as a payback for an earlier agreement on workers' rights hammered out with the government back in July. Maybe I'm getting cynical in my old age, but I don't think that an impassioned speech by a Kurdish woman "helped swing the vote" either, as papers have it. I've been to enough political conventions in my time to know that most people come with their minds already made up; rhetoric might be memorable and moving but it doesn't move too many votes. Still, here's some of what a Surrey-resident Shanaz Rashid of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and a wife of Iraqi government minister had to say:

"Yes, there have been difficulties. Yes, there have been mistakes perhaps many mistakes. No, you did not find weapons of mass destruction. But for the great majority of Iraqis WMD was never the issue. We don't understand the criticism of your Prime Minister. All we wanted was to be free... I appeal to you all [delegates]... to help us build a new democratic federal Iraq that would respect the lives of human beings."
When asked later by the media if she considered some in the Labour Party naive about Iraq, Rashid replied:

"Yes I do think so. They don't know the reality of their lives. They haven't lived through Saddam. They don't know what we've been through. It is not fair of them to ask the British Government to withdraw their forces before completing their mission. They are going to harm the Iraqi people more. They are going to cause more deaths. If they are concerned about the Iraqi children they should not be asking the British Government to leave them alone at the mercy of others. The Iraqi people born 30 or 35 years ago have seen nothing but one kind of rule and that is dictatorship. You cannot just change them in a matter of day and night. People of Iraq have become strangers. We need time to be introduced to each other again. We should be given time to know one another, to see the differences, to see the options and we need all the help in the world to rebuild our home."
Mrs Rashid seems to be talking about the Post-Totalitarian Stress Disorder.

By the way, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is an observer member of the
Socialist International. It's good to know that at least some left-wing parties around the world still know the importance of fighting fascism. They happen to be the parties which have actually experienced fascism first hand, as opposed to the rest who seem to think that it's something that emanates from the White House.

Lastly, Tony Blair has announced that he will seek a third but not a fourth parliamentary term, as he prepares to go into hospital for a
heart surgery. The last few years have obviously taken their toll. Speedy recovery, Tony, and God bless.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?