Dismal regional election results for Tony Blair over in the UK, in part, undoubtedly, because of his support for the Iraq war, but to blame this debacle purely on Iraq (as some will do) would be wrong. Beyond Iraq, Blair’s government has also done much to alienate support on the left for its supposedly centrist tendencies, while many on the center-right who supported Labour in the general election will have returned to the Tories both attracted by that party’s more effective leadership and repelled by the government’s fixation with regulation, taxation and the EU. The perception that Blair is a little, how shall we put this, flexible in his attitude to both truth and, more generally, honesty, will not have helped his party either.
There was a dismaying result in London where the demagogic Ken Livingstone, a politician whose viciousness is matched only by his incompetence and dishonesty, was (relatively) narrowly re-elected as mayor. Incredibly, he was endorsed by the usually sensible Economist and the usually even more sensible Stephen Pollard. The reason for this folly? The ‘congestion charge,’ which has (repeat after me) absolutely nothing to do with market forces and absolutely everything to with Livingstone’s longstanding dislike of the autonomy and the freedom that the automobile can bring.
So can we look forward to Michael Howard in Number Ten next year? No. At this stage in the electoral cycle, the Conservatives need to be doing far better than this. Under Howard they are back, but they are not yet in.