Friday, 14 February 2003

A Prime Minister in difficulties

Over on Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait asks, "Is Blair now in real trouble?" I certainly think so. The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has just addressed the UN Security Council and I have rarely heard a cabinet minister sound so nervous. Tomorrow, Blair will give a speech to Labour's spring conference, which is taking place in Glasgow. Some 25,000 demonstrators are expected to be outside the conference hall when Blair is speaking. Many will be Labour activists:
the issue has split the party and along with many Labour backbench MPs, activists remain unconvinced by the data delivered to the UN by the weapons inspectors. It is understood a majority of delegates at the conference will have more sympathy for the massive anti-war protests planned for Glasgow and London than for Mr Blair’s point of view.

The march due to take place in Glasgow will be the biggest public protest ever to be staged in the city.

And the elections for the Scottish parliament are now only eleven weeks away:
John Swinney, the Scottish National Party leader, is set to address the anti-war march in Glasgow at a venue near the Labour conference. The SNP yesterday leapt on the results of an opinion poll which showed that half of all Scots are against a war in the Gulf.

Alex Salmond, the SNP leader at Westminster, said: "The results of this poll show clearly that over half of all voters in Scotland are less likely to vote for the Labour Party in May if the UK goes to war against Iraq without a new UN mandate.

"Of more concern to Jack McConnell is the fact that 45 per cent of Labour voters would be less likely to vote for him if we went to war on this basis.

Labour support is already dropping in the Scottish opinion polls. If there isn't a satisfactory result in Iraq by mid-April, we may see a change of regime in the Scottish parliament.