Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Blair's burden

While President Bush spins himself silly rewriting history and otherwise avoiding responsibility for his own messes, Prime Minister Blair, who weekly stands before a raucous House of Commons during Question Period, is about to face perhaps his biggest political challenge -- and he may not survive:

Leading opposition figures from the Conservative, Liberal-Democratic, Scottish National and Plaid Cymru (Welsh) parties have banded together to back the cross-party motion titled "Conduct of Government policy in relation to the war against Iraq" to demand that the case for an inquiry be debated in the House of Commons. They seem assured of the 200 signatures required to get such a debate -- and then the loyalty of Blair's dismayed and disillusioned Labor members of Parliament will be sorely tested...

Labor Party rebels have already inflicted one unprecedented defeat on Blair in this parliamentary session, and on the issue of Iraq, he commands little confidence. One leading Labor rebel, Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham, has already signed on to the motion.

It reads: "This House believes there should be a select committee of seven Members, being Members of Her Majesty's Privy Council, to review the way in which the responsibilities of government were discharged in relation to Iraq and all matters relevant thereto in the period leading up to military action in that country in March, 2003 and in its aftermath."

There have been earlier inquiries, critical of Blair but not lethal, into the use of intelligence and other issues, but this would be the first to focus on the way the decision to go to war was reached...

I admire Tony Blair. I really do. I generally approve of his liberal interventionist approach to foreign policy. But he's in trouble here.

In a parliamentary system like the one at Westminster, the prime minister must ultimately defend himself and his policies (or, rather, those of his government) before parliament. And if parliament loses confidence, the government is brought down (as it was on Monday here in Canada). In a presidential system like the one in the U.S., the president is accountable to... whom? The voters? Yes, but only once. Congress? Well, there are checks, to be sure, what what happens when the president's party holds the majority in Congress? Exactly. Nothing. The Supreme Court? More checks, yes, but what if a majority of justices support broad executive powers? Or what if there's no clear case to be brought before the justices? The media? Yeah, sure.

So we're left with President Bush's lies and deception and revisionism. And where Blair's toughest challenger is the House of Commons itself, Bush's toughest challenger appears to be... Helen Thomas.

Wouldn't it be great if Bush and Blair could swap jobs for a couple of weeks?

Now that'd make for some outstanding reality TV.

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