Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More gung-ho than the government

If the British government loses a parliamentary motion tonight it will be obliged to call a public enquiry into the conduct of the Iraq war. Faced with this unappealling prospect, it has resorted to a hysterical attack to try to stop the rot, denouncing its Conservative opponents - who can probably tip the balance - as traitors. The Sun reports the Tony Blair's spokesman as saying: 'We have an enemy looking for any sign of weakness at all, any sign of a loss of resolution or determination to see this job through.'

Any mujahideen with access to the internet - and the signs are there are plenty of them - would see from a cursory reading of the British press that there are plenty of 'signs of weakness' already. Every recent opinion poll in the British papers shows that public support to 'see this job through' is rapidly waning. The pro-war papers themselves have been trimming to chime with their readers' more sceptical views. And when the head of the Army says that the British army should 'get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems' caused by intervention and Mr Blair says he agrees, then the government's attack today looks ridiculous.

The underlying problem is that the Government has relied all the way on Conservative support for its Iraq policy. Its claims on weapons of mass destruction - which turned out to be nonsense - enjoyed an easy ride in Parliament because of the Conservatives' readiness to believe them. During the war that followed, the Conservatives have been more gung-ho than the government. Had they been more circumspect in their support from the outset, they would be way ahead in the polls by now.

That is changing. For the Conservatives, the appetising prospect of winning votes finally seems to have outweighed the trenchant support for the war they have espoused until now. That is why the government is so worried tonight.

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