The only thing that was going to hurt Tony Blair in Thursday’s British General Election was the decision to go into Iraq. Overall his Labour Party, despite all but abandoning the left wing principles on which it was founded, has left British internal affairs in pretty good shape after the past two terms since they stormed to power in 1997.
His main opposition, Conservative leader Michael Howard, had his hands tied on the Iraq issue, since the troops were deployed at the time and he could not speak out against them, much like the dilemma John Kerry faced last November.
The fly in the ointment was George Galloway. His rigorous opposition to Blair’s plans to stand beside the White House and oust the regime in Baghdad resulted in a bitter smear campaign against him, which led to his being thrown out of the Labour Party, and even to suggestions that he himself was in financial league with Saddam Hussein, a claim that was subsequently thrown out by the courts.
Instead of taking his punishment, however, Galloway formed his own party, with the simple title Respect. He picked the constituency with the largest Muslim population and ran himself on an anti-war platform. Guess what. He won by almost a thousand votes. He chose his party name extremely well if you ask me.
And so Blair gets his third term, but he also gets a stern message from his electorate.