Bob Dylan is John Howard’s favourite rocker (I’m sorry too, but it’s
true). Perhaps he can send Tony Blair a copy of “I Threw It All Away”
so he might ponder what he’s done to Labour’s chances of getting a
fourth and a fifth term in power.

Foreign criminals at large, cash for honours, two shags Prescott –
these things would matter less if there was not, right in the dead
centre of it all, the Iraq war, and the lies told to get Britain into
it.

This sits like a tumour in the Blair era – one that has grown to take
up most of the host bodyweight. It has transformed what were once Blair’s attractive
qualities –
the folksy manner, the smile, the direct approach – into a target of deep hatred.

Because British soldiers are dying frequently, and because the
electorate is not as ethically blithe as we became, truth and lies
matter more than xenophobia (as Lynton Crosby found out).

What should really terrify the British Labour Party – and why Blair is
now on the ropes as a leader – is the reappearance of the north-south
split.
Britain has been solidly Labour above a line running through the middle
of Wales (actually through the awful town of Peterborough in the east)
since 1945. The South is the battleground, and last week most of
Labour’s losses were there – indicating that David Cameron’s turquoise
conservatism has won back sections of the moderate middle class.

If Labour were to lose in 2009 (and it’s a long way away) Iraq would be
what hollowed it out early on. It would have destroyed Labour’s chances
of fully cementing what it has established, but not yet guaranteed – a
social democratic standard as the context in which British politics is
fought for decades to come.

He threw it all away all right. One good thing – every Labour leader
to come would effectively have that lesson about foreign wars
branded into the centre of his or her brain.

Peter Fray

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