British Prime Minister Tony Blair has stated his intention to resign before the next election. It’s nearly certain he will be replaced by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who promises to distance himself from the White House, "speak his mind," and put Britain's national interests first.
The Prime Minister has refused to set a date for his departure, saying only that he will leave sometime before September. Most people believe he will exit in May, giving himself a full decade in office. Others believe he will go sometime before May to give his successor time to assure a maximum Labour vote in the May elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local councils.
Pollsters are predicting a heavy defeat for Labour in the May elections. They may well be right. I predict that the arrogant Blair will again put his legacy before the Party and Britain's national interests by staying in office until at least May, assuring his decade as Prime Minister. Not only that, but Labour is currently conducting an extensive policy review, which Blair hopes will secure his legacy by entrenching long-term plans for public service reforms. It is highly unlikely that he will leave before its conclusion.
Many people also believe he will hang on as long as possible in the hope that Northern Ireland's devolution can be restarted while he is still in office. All these things make it unlikely that he will be stepping down any time soon – and unlikely his successor will have any time to influence the vote in May, if in fact Blair doesn't stay on for the elections.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, put it best: "We have a constitutional novelty. A prime minister with responsibility and no authority and a chancellor with authority but no responsibility. How can this dysfunctional government conduct the affairs of the country?" The latest Labour party scandal proves he is right.
Former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has caused a massive stir in the UK by removing her dyslexic son from a state school. Ms Kelly said she was doing "the right thing for my child” in paying 15,000 pounds (about US 30,000) per year in fees to move her son into private schooling. A boarding school in distant Oxfordshire is Ms Kelly's choice, despite there being 20 schools close to her home – six with either outstanding or excellent Special Education Needs (SEN) services according to a recent Ofsted report. Downing Street almost immediately released a statement supporting MS Kelly and Opposition Leader David Cameron, who has a son with cerebral palsy.
Massive scandal for Labour
I doubt that the thousands of British parents who have children with severe learning difficulties but can't afford private school will feel the same. In fact it is likely that they will have lost faith in public sector SEN schooling. Either way, Ms Kelly has shown little faith in her community, little faith in the education system, and little faith in herself. Her decision has also caused a massive scandal for Labour, which could really do without it at the moment.
The debate has continued in the media. In 2005 David Blunkett became the 9th minister Blair had forced to resign, and five others have resigned in scandalous circumstances, four over the Iraq war. I have no doubt that Ruth Kelly would have been the 10th forced resignation under normal party conditions. A news reporter echoed Menzies Campbell last Wednesday, saying: Blair has the responsibility but no authority and Brown has the authority but no responsibility, so it looks likely she –Ruth Kelly– will stay in her job. So, not only is it yet another high-profile scandal and yet more bad publicity for the Labour Party, but it has yet again drawn attention to the "dysfunctional government" running the UK.
This all combines to make it very unlikely the pollsters will be proved wrong about the May elections. Labour will indeed be in for a blood-bath.
So, what has never looked likely before begins to look likely now: a Scottish National Party (SNP) win in the Scottish Parliament elections and maybe even Scottish Independence. The Scottish National Party is slightly ahead of Scottish Labour, and miles ahead of all other parties in most opinion polls. You can't blame them for thinking this could be their year.
The SNP will undoubtedly try to gain Scottish independence, which has a lot of support in Scotland but not from me. I am a proud Scot, but I am also proud to be British, and believe we have far more clout in Europe and the world speaking with one unified voice. Devolution has meant Scotland can still act in its own right, with its own separate funding and separate policies – as the smoking ban in Scotland has proven. I am a smoker, and to see people on TV smoking in English pubs, knowing we can no longer smoke in public places north of the border is one example I could do without.
New supporters are being added to those who have always supported the SNP vision for an independent Scotland. They believe Scotland could be better off as an independent state because it would have sole control and reap the profits of Scotland's oil reserves, which they believe would expand the Scottish economy.
The fact that the opposition party likely to gain the most in the Scottish Parliament elections is not the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats but the SNP is evidence of what is making people angry; perhaps more so than any of the above. The Scottish people want to distance themselves from Blair's foreign policy, and they see the SNP vision for an independent Scotland as the best way to do that.
But perhaps the biggest disadvantage of having Blair still on-board is his unrelenting support for Bush and the U.S., combined with anti-U.S. feeling in the U.K. running at an all-time high. This is largely because of Bush's foreign policy, which Blair has followed blindly. Even though support for the Iraq war and Bush and Blair are at an all-time low, Blair refuses, whatever his reasoning, to criticise Bush even slightly, no matter how stupid his foreign policies seem.
The latest U.S bombing in Somalia is yet another example, Blair was asked in Parliament last week if he was concerned by the air strikes from the US air force carried out on Somali targets.. It was suggested by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn that what was needed was not foreign intervention but a peace process. Blair agreed: "What is in the interests of everyone in Somalia is to have a peace process that works properly.”
Bearing in mind that for the last 15 years Somalis have endured either all-out war or total violent chaos in the country, Blair should surely have stopped there, or perhaps added something like: “and that is what everybody, including the U.S wants to see in the country.” Instead he said: the extremists at work in Somalia pose a threat not just to those outside Somalia but those within it as well; global terrorism around the world had "a clear ideology and strategy" and where lives were being affected by it, it was right that those responsible were targeted. Bush can do no wrong in Blair's eyes.
People are worried that with Blair in power the government will be pressured by Bush's troop surge in Iraq and won't keep its promise of bringing thousands of British troops home this year. Home from what many believe is an unwinnable war.
Blair staying in power but not really in charge puts the Labour party at a definite disadvantage. For one thing, it gives opposition MPs an easy target to aim criticism and ridicule at. Every day that passes without an announcement of Blair's departure means less time for the new leader to turn things around, more time for people to get even angrier as the dysfunctional government is exposed time and again, and more reason for opposition MPs to rub their hands together.
There is a program scheduled on British TV called the “Trial of Tony Blair.” In the program, Blair is convicted and jailed by a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. This is further evidence of UK sentiment about the Iraq war and Blair's part in it. The Labour Party needs to cast Blair from its neck before it is too late.