Focus shifts to the cost of the war
Much of the political damage done to Labour by the Iraq war is personally associated with Tony Blair. Many in the Labour party — whatever they think of Blair, Brown or indeed anyone else in the Cabinet — will be relieved at this aspect of Blair’s resignation when it happens: at least, they assume, the successor will not have been tarnished by the war in the same way. Conversely, the other parties will expect attacks over Iraq to be less effective for them.
Smart politics for those who aren’t fans of Gordon Brown — within or outside the Labour party — would be to try to get him personally associated with aspects of the war. Accordingly, 30 MPs (drawn from Labour dissidents, the Lib Dems and a few Tories) have tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill which would require the Chancellor to report annually on the costs of the occupation of Iraq, with a parliamentary vote required to release the next year’s funding.
There is a bit of a dilemma for the Tories here: if they support the amendment, it must have a good chance of picking up enough Labour rebellions to pass. But for the leadership to get behind it too wholeheartedly may draw some attention to the support that the majority of the party’s MPs gave to the war at its start. It might be best for them to sit on their hands and even if the amendment fails, take passive advantage of the heat being turned up on Brown.
If this changes your view of either the state of the parties at the next election or of Brown’s chances of succeeding to the Labour leadership, the markets are currently saying:
Largest party in next Parliament: 0.95/1 Con; 1.11/1 Lab
Next Labour leader: 0.43/1 Brown; 7.6/1 Johnson; 18/1 bar
Mike Smithson returns on 10th July.