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Tired of Tony

GREAT BRITAIN is disenchanted with Tony Blair. There are any number of reasons for this, but one reason stands out above all others, and that is Iraq. The man who took office seven years ago with such promise, the man who for one brief 1990s moment was the leader of "Cool Britannia," is today a haggard, untrusted, much-abused prime minister. He is the man who took his country into a deeply unpopular war.

To Americans, Mr. Blair seems to be the sort of friend who won't desert you in a scrape, a moral man and a powerfully articulate speaker. The British are less impressed by the rhetoric and more concerned about where he's taking the country. He went into Iraq, the thinking goes, either because of a principled desire to intervene against an odious regime, or out of a conviction that an America left to go it alone militarily is simply too dangerous, too unhitched to the structures that have served the West so well. But he argued his case with a trumped-up dossier about Iraqi weapons, and now, close to two years later, many in Britain have a hard time seeing a new day dawning in Baghdad, and are wondering what benefit they have gotten out of the decision to go into battle alongside the obliviously ungrateful Bush administration.

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Last week, Britain held elections for local offices, and Mr. Blair's Labor Party finished a devastating third. It's not all his fault, and it's not all about Iraq, obviously, but it does look like handwriting on the wall.

Not only in Britain, but across Europe, there is a restiveness among voters -- and growing millions who don't bother to vote at all. By yesterday, the results of voting for the European parliament had become clear, and they were startling. In France, President Jacques Chirac's rightist party was soundly defeated. In Germany, Gerhard Schroeder's leftist party was thrashed. Among the new Eastern members of the European Union, where there should have been enthusiasm for the economic alliance, there was instead debilitating apathy -- and an average turnout of just 26 percent.

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Britain's Labor Party won 26 percent of the vote, down more than 5 percentage points from the previous election. Yet the Conservatives dropped even more. Everywhere, so-called Euroskeptic parties surged.

Europeans are turning against politics. In a way, the war in Iraq seems to have put the discontent into relief. Mr. Chirac's opposition had a phony quality about it, likely driven by some other agenda. But the same could be said for Mr. Blair's support. Across Europe, there is a sense of dread over the clash with radical Islam and concern over inadequate leaders. It's an unhappy, dangerous moment for the West. Mr. Blair may be the first to feel the consequences.


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