Will Bush try to capitalise on Britain’s move?
Tony Blair must be praying that George Bush does not seek to make political capital out of the planned British troop move to support US forces in the north of Iraq.
The idea that British lives might be at risk to help get Bush re-elected could damage the Prime Minister and Labour enormously.
A sign of the level of unease was seen in the frosty response that Labour MPs gave to the Defence Secetrary, Geoff Hoon after he had said that the UK ‘has duty to redeploy troops’ . Tuesday’s Independent reports the following:-
Furious Labour politicians warned Tony Blair last night that they had drawn a line in the sand over the American request for the deployment of more British troops. Previously loyal MPs who had supported Mr Blair in the vote on the war in Iraq said: “This far, and no further.”Government whips reported back to Mr Blair of their alarm at the change of mood on the Labour back benches. “The worm has turned,” said one anti-war Labour MP.
On a straight party political basis the emotional aspect of UK forces serving under US command gives an opening to the Tories to criticise the Government on Iraq – something they’ve found hard to do because of IDS’s blind support for Blair. The move puts Iraq back at the top of the news and the worry expressed by one Labour MP after another that the country is getting deeper into something from which it will become harder to get out could add to Blair’s overall worries.
With Bush facing suggestions that the draft might have to be re-introduced the news that Britain might help could deal with two tricky elections issues – the Kerry claim the Bush has made America isolated and the never-ending demand for US resources.
The long-term problem for Blair is that it emphasises the extent to which Blair always seems to do Bush’s bidding.
If the story continues to top the news then the Tony Blair markets rather than the main General Election ones could be affected. These include the Labour leadership, when Blair will go and the party leaders. So far the spread and standard General Election markets have been unmoved. If the row continues then Labour might fall down a notch on the spread markets.
The October opinion polls – ICM, MORI and YouGov – might pick up a change of mood and any fall-back for Labour would be market sensitive.