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Greg Palast: Tony Blair Can't Win

Tony Blair Can't Win

Wednesday, May 4, 2005
By Greg Palast

Mark my words: Tony Blair won't be re-elected on Thursday. However, he will remain in office.

That's because Brits don't vote for their Prime Minister. They've got a "parliamentary" system there in the Mother Country. And the difference between democracy and parliamentary rule makes all the difference. It is the only reason why Blair will keep his job -- at least for a few months.

Let me explain. The British vote only for their local Member of Parliament. The MPs, in turn, pick the PM. If a carpenter in Nottingham doesn't like Prime Minister Blair (not all dislike him, some detest him), the only darn thing they can do about it is vote against their local MP, in this case, the lovely Alan Simpson, a Labour Party stalwart who himself would rather kiss a toad than cuddle with Tony.

Therefore, the majority of the Queen's subjects -- deathly afraid of the return of Margaret Thatcher's vampirical Tory spawn -- holds their noses, vote for their local Labour MP and pray that an act of God will save their happy isle. A recent poll showed the British evenly divided: forty percent want Blair to encounter a speeding double-decker bus and forty percent want him stretched, scalded and quartered in the Tower of London (within a sampling margin of four percent).

Why? Well, to begin with, Blair lies. A secret memo from inside Blair's coven discovered this week made clear that Britain's Prime Minister knew damn well, eight months before we invaded Iraq, that George Bush was cooking the intelligence info on "WDM," but Blair agreed to tag along with his master.

The Prime Minister's coterie sold his nation on the re-conquest of their old colony, Iraq, by making up this cockamamie story about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that could take out London in 45 minutes. But Brits knew that was 'bollocks' (no translation available) long before this week's shock-horror memo story.

A greater blight on the Prime Minister's reputation: Blair likes American presidents. While his habit of keeping his nose snug against Bill Clinton's derriere was a bit off-putting, his application to George Bush's behind makes Blair's countrymen retch.

I watched the machinery called Tony Blair up close as a Yankee in King Blair's court (first as an advisor on the inside, then as a journalist also on the inside, but with a hidden tape recorder).

And it was eerie. Because what I saw was a man who, while Britain's erstwhile leader, scorns his own country. That is, he scorns the union workers that wanted to keep filthy coal mines open; he scorns the nostalgic blue-haired ladies who wanted to keep the Queen's snout on their nation's currency; he scorns his nation of maddeningly inefficient little shops on the high street, of subjects snoozy with welfare state comforts and fearful of the wonders of cheap labor available in far-off locales.

Blair looks longingly at America, land of the hard-charging capitalist cowboy, of entrepreneurs with big-box retail discount stores, Silicon Valley start-ups and Asian out-sourcing.

Blair doesn't want to be Prime Minister. He wants to be governor in London of America's 51st state.

Britons know this. They feel deeply that their main man doesn't like the Britain he has. And that is why the average punter in the pub longs to be led by that most English of British politicians -- who is not English at all -- Gordon Brown, the Scotland-born Chancellor of the Exchequer.

And so they vote for their local Labour MP on that party's quietly whispered promise that, shortly after the election, Gordon Brown, defender of the old welfare state, union rights, and a gentleman unlikely to invade forgotten remnants of the empire, will, on a vote of his parliamentary confreres, take the reins of government in his benign and prudent hands.

As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says, Tony Blair is a man of principle. So was the Ayatolla Khomeini. Both were willing to have others pay any price for their beliefs.

Luckily for Britain, Chancellor Brown won't let Blair put his fanatic hands on the kingdom's cash or coinage. And herein is another difference betwixt the US and UK. In America, the Treasury Secretary is little more than the President's factotum. In Britain, the Chancellor holds the nation's purse. Brown brilliantly controls Britain's spending, taxing and currency. For example, despite Tony's pleas, Brown presciently nixed England dumping the pound coin for the euro.

And thus Brown, not Blair, has earned his nation's gratitude for the island's steady recovery from Thatcherite punishments while, across The Pond, real wages in Bush's America are falling.

Blair will hold onto office - for now - due only to a sly campaign that relies on the public's accepting on faith that, sooner rather than later after the vote on Thursday, Blair will do the honorable thing and end his own political life, leaving the British-to-the-bone Brown to inherit the parliamentary throne.

Tony's political corpse can then be mailed to Texas - wrapped in an American flag.


Greg Palast, former columnist for Britain's Guardian papers, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his columns at

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