In the last six months, British Tories have fallen into the same desperate political trap U.S. Democrats did in the months preceding November, with the same disastrous results.
Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders have assailed the Labour Party’s record on every issue from immigration, to crime, to hospitals, to school discipline. In the last weeks, conservatives have rightfully berated the ruling government’s leaders for wasteful taxes. Liberal Democrats – the only major party to oppose the war in Iraq – have put Prime Minister Tony Blair hand in hand with the cowboy President George W. Bush.
No Labour Party policy has gone unlibeled, uncontested or unaddressed. Labour’s opposition has treated Blair’s agenda the same brutal way some on the U.S. left treat Bush.
Like the Democrats last fall, there’s no coherent message or rallying point from the United Kingdom’s Conservative or Liberal Democrat ranks. Attacking someone for everything amounts to pinning him or her on nothing. It’s the political equivalent of throwing stick-tight fleas on a Westminster show dog.
The Labour Party’s cakewalk was only briefly interrupted a week ago when the British media pulled a New York Times and turned a nonstory into the coming of Nostradamus’ Mabus. For weeks, opposition has been clamoring for the release of confidential documents detailing the legal opinions given to the prime minister from his attorney general. Under pressure from Blair, the story goes: Lord Goldsmith changed his stance on the legality of the Iraq invasion from March 7, 2003, to March 17, 2003.
On April 28, when the British attorney general’s prewar advice on the legality of the Iraq invasion was released, England’s newspapers did all but demand Blair’s resignation. The Daily Mail claimed the opinion was a “bombshell” that has destroyed Blair’s reputation. Unforgivably, The Guardian said, the opposition was kept in the dark. The Daily Express simply headlined, “The Big Lie.”
This should sound familiar. Last summer and fall, U.S. Democrats turned what could have been a strong, positive campaign with headlines on environmental programs, stem cell research and tax policy into a Broadway show riddled with hysterical and untrustworthy polemics. Instead of broadcasting Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and snubbing MoveOn.org, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the American Civil Liberties Union, they embraced the growing parade of the daffy and dishonest loonies like Michael Moore.
Conservative leader Michael Howard hasn’t had a photo op with Jean-Marie Le Pen yet but he might as well. The Labour Party has used a replica of the caricature U.S. conservatives painted on the left during the 2004 presidential election. Mad as hell and growing more desperate, Howard responded by shooting himself in the foot.
Initially, like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., British Conservatives were whole-hearted supporters of launching a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But when the war casualties appeared, the insurgency gained strength and intelligence information turned out to be wrong, the intercontinental tune changed from, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” to some Rage Against the Machine – or, better yet, Bruce Springsteen – song.
Just as Kerry casually shifted his position on Iraq from, “(Invading Iraq) was the right thing to do,” to, “Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time,” Howard has moved from, “The war against Iraq was necessary; it was just; it was, indeed, arguably overdue,” to, “(Tony Blair) lied to take us to war.” Liberal Democrats have been only slightly less rabid in their accusations, merely saying Blair “misled” and must “come clean with the British public.”
It’s only a matter of time before U.S. liberals and U.K. Conservatives realize extreme indictments don’t yield extreme results.
The British public has reacted the same distrustful way to Conservative propaganda as U.S. voters did to Kerry’s stirring allegations. Polls leading up to today still put Blair in a commanding lead of Howard and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy. A daily tracking poll for ITV television showed that 44 percent of the British populace is less likely to vote Tory because of Howard’s allegations. Twenty-one percent said they would be less likely to vote Labour. In the same poll, 61 percent of participants said Conservatives were “resorting to name calling” because they don’t have a message.
We’ll wait and see how British voters feel about the flame-throwing, grandstanding and slandering by U.K. Conservatives. Just don’t be surprised, Howard, if Tories go the way of the U.S. left like former Sen. Tom Daschle.
Darren Bernard welcomes comments at [email protected]