For the first
time since he was elected Prime Minister in 1997, Tony Blair was
just defeated in a vote in the British Parliament.
The issue was the so-called 'war against terrorism'. Blair had
insisted that the police be given extra powers to hold people
in detention for 90 days before being charged and brought before
a court. These were the laws of apartheid South Africa. These
were the laws of 'preventive detention' enforced by the British
Empire in the colonies. These were the laws Blair wanted to apply
to British citizens. Forgotten was habeas corpus and the rights
of the 'free-born Englishman.' Even the Conservative Party, which
has slavishly supported Blair on Iraq, regarded this as an unwarranted
and unnecessary display of authoritarianism.
And enough Labour Members of Parliament voted against their leader
to reject Blair's measures by 322 votes to 291 - a bigger than
expected majority of 31.
the London bombings of 7 July the Labour Government had declared
war on civil liberties in the name of the 'war against terror'.
The main reason Blair and his debased Cabinet wanted to push the
new law was to avoid their own responsibility for the events of
7 July. They played on ignorance, prejudice and fear to frighten
British citizens, a majority of whom know only too well that the
reason for the attacks on London was Blair's decision to participate
in Bush's war on Iraq.
He is a much-despised
leader in the country at large and the defeat in parliament has
weakened Blair's authority in his own party. All his policies,
his mistakes, his love of the rich, his aberrations, his vengeful
platitudes as he denounces civil liberties, his warmongering has
now been thrown open to the taunts of his critics, whose numbers
too will increase.
Many in liberal England who have been kind to New Labour will
now begin to enquire into policies they had, till now, accepted
on good faith. Blair's desire to privatise education and health
might now never be fulfilled. Ridicule and contempt could well
drive Blair out of 10 Downing Street.
He has promised
his loyal and faithful would-be-successor, Gordon Brown, that
he would resign before the next elections. This defeat has wounded
Blair, but he might still recover. He has not yet been shaken
to the core. Expedient trickery will be used to try and revive
him, but for how long?
It is said by those close to him that he wants to leave on a high,
that he does not want to be driven out by the Iraq war, but it
is no longer up to him. The ignominy and disgrace he has brought
to his country as a result of that war cannot be wished away so
easily. Will his gutless Cabinet put on white coats and tell him
his time is up or will they allow him to bleed slowly to death?
These are the questions raised by yesterday's defeat in Parliament.
Ali is author of the recently published Street Fighting Years
(new edition) and, with David Barsamian,Speaking of Empires
& Resistance. He can be reached at
here to order Tariq Ali books.
Other articles by Tariq Ali:
Pakistan Will Never Forget This Horror
The Logic Of Colonial Rule
A Viler Barbarism
The Price Of Occupation
The New Ultra-Imperialism Of The World
"They Think God Runs The IMF"
Imperial Delusions: "Domocracy Promotion" And Resistance
The New Model Of Imperialism: Saddam On Parade
The Importance Of Hugo Chavez: Why He Crushed The Oligarchs
Getting Away With Murder
The War Is Not Going Well For Bush