The British seem fascinated by royal couples and when the Windsors lose their luster, the front pages of the newspapers are taken by rock stars, sports stars, movie stars or millionaires. It seems that this fascination has also extended into the political realm and it also seems that the British have developed a taste for long periods of single-party government. Today, the New Labor of Tony Blair looks like winning a third term and maybe even a fourth one due to the disarray of its enemies.
King Tony’s supremacy is the more remarkable when one considers how widely disliked this man is. Blair enjoyed great popularity in 1997 but not anymore. However, his nature is still an enigma. We knew from the start that he was a contradictory man, the leader of a democratic-socialist party that never uses the word “socialism” and speaks about market freedom in terms that any Conservative prime minister, but no previous Labour leader, might have used. I was somewhat concerned about this in 1997 but we were still in New Labor’s money moon and I chose not to think about it. Now, many of his supporters maintain the behavior I had in 1997 and let him do as he pleases.
In 1997, no matter what he said or did, he had a pop-star aura. During his first post-election party conference, The Economist, covering the event, quoted an anonymous observer as saying: “He could announce the slaughter of his son and still get a standing ovation.” Today, he did order a slaughter and nobody’s standing up to applaud. And the mystery remains: Why did he accept this war? Why did he follow the policy of George W. Bush and Paul Wolfowitz? It seems that Blair sold his soul to the Devil and got nothing in return. This is an almost tragic view of the character; he did the wrong thing because he believed it was right. We could almost feel sympathy for him... if he had showed some remorse.
Then, we resort to the Labor manifesto as our last hope. Since September 11, 2001, British and American politicians have been assaulting civil liberties. If this tendency continues, Labor voters themselves would have to do everything possible to remove him from power. In my case, the creation of an offense of “incitement to religious hatred” would be enough of a last straw for me. This measure would sacrifice freedom of speech in order to placate Muslim voters angered by the war in Iraq. In the worst of cases, I could be persuaded to vote for a control freak (even tarnished), but not if I knew that he is in hock to religious inquisitors.
The New Labor should understand that the supporters of freedom of speech include a larger voter base than the Islamists and that playing the game of communalist politics may prove to be a dangerous policy that may bring them down from their throne.

The Telegraph (India)

« King Tony’s Reign », by Salman Rushdie, The Telegraph, April 14, 2005.
« L’honneur perdu du roi Tony Blair », Libération, May 3, 2005.