Blair puts convictions above party in backing U.S. president's plan

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

To many Labor supporters, by no means only those on the far Left, Mr. Blair's willingness to support a Right-wing American regime in what they see as an aggressive war is almost unforgivable. Labor's opposition to another Iraqi campaign is rooted in some of the most basic instincts that actuate that party's followers: suspicion of the United States in general and of Republicans in particular; support for the underdog; anti-colonialism; concern for Third World civilians; and, not least, a basic dislike of all wars.

It is hard to think of a more provocative issue on which Mr. Blair could challenge his own party. That is why, even now, it is quite possible that the prime minister will tiptoe away from his American allies. Yet if Mr. Blair really does follow through, it will silence many of those critics who have accused him of lacking principles. Mr. Blair's support for America appears to stem from genuine conviction.

He seems to be sincere in his belief that influence in Washington makes Britain stronger in Europe, and vice versa. In backing a renewal of the conflict, Mr. Blair would be putting his principles above his party, perhaps the greatest test of statesmanship. Rarely has Mr. Blair been suspected of excessive integrity. Perhaps he will surprise us all.

-- Daily Telegraph, London

Sept. 2

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