UK/Oz dopers: Will Blair and Howard survive?

It’s been pretty widely reported in the US that Blair does not enjoy the support of the bulk of the UK populace over supporting Bush’s war, and that Howard is out in front of Australians (yes, on very rare occasions, we get some news from Down Under). I’m curious about the real ramifications of that, knowing that your election cycles are not on a rigid schedule like ours.

What happens politically if Bush goes ahead and Blair and Howard put your own troops in harm’s way? Is it likely or not that their parties will call a leadership review (and what are the mechanics of that, anyway)? How about a no-confidence vote? What’s your feel of the situation - would they be committing political suicide if they go any further?

Blair will face a leadership challenge in the autumn according to reports. He’ll probably survive because half the Labour party will have torn up their cards by then. If he is an honourable man, and I think he is, he would resign once the war is over. sadly I don’t believe any politician is that honourable.

Much depends on how events unfold. If Bush and Blair participate in a US-led war without UN sanction, they are taking enormous political risks. If they do not lose their leadership positions - and my guess is they won’t, at any rate in the short term - they will do themselves serious damage, and perhpas hasten the day when other issues make it impossible for them to continue.

If there is a further UN resolution authorising military force, there position, while not comfortable, would be more secure.

If the war is long-drawn out, messy and involves high casuatlies (either of allied forces or of Iraqi civilians) their position obviously becomes more difficult, whether or not there is a second UN resolution.

Howard will probably not survive this…although i wil put some provisos on that.
It is true that he does not apparently have very much support for his position among most Australians. Certainly as I walked through Hobart on Saturday I did see a fair sized protest crowd.
However, assuming that the war (which is probably inevitable) goes smoothly, and the PR factory goes into overtime (exposing more of the current regimes atrocities may help him in that respect).
If that is the case, and he calls a snap election he may just survive it.

It’s completely unpredictable.

Bush seems to be assuming a quick in/out situation like Gulf war I or Afghanistan.

If that happens, then Howard will be a popular hero (at least in the short term) for backing the winning side.

If there’s any other outcome, who knows?

There are also complicating factors. One of the things that is popularly perceived to be the cause of Howard’s success in the last election was his aggressive stance on illegal immigrants. Post election, much of the information supplied to the public regarding said illegal immigrants was shown to be false.

If it subsequently proves that Howard acted upon false information provided by the U.S. regarding Iraq, Howard is probably finished.

A no confidence vote in the lower house would do it. There is no chance at all of this. Howard is the leader of a Liberal/National coalition government (recall that the Liberal Party is the main conservative party in Australia) and is PM by virtue of being the elected leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party. A vote in the party room would replace him as leader. The leader in waiting has for a long time been treasurer Peter Costello. He is more liberal socially than the current PM. Howard has for some years said that he will review his position at age 64, and it has been expected that he would bow out and leave the job to Costello.

The manner of Howard’s win in the last election have thrown this scenario into doubt. Costello has effectively been sidelined and the government has moved away from its economic credentials towards a much more prominant conservative social agenda. This has raised the hopes of other, more conservative, aspirants like Tony Abbott. It is hard to see Costello mounting a challenge at present. If he wants to stay, Howard is in my view safe until the next election. But things can change very quickly in Australian politics: it is only a couple of years ago that Howard’s government appeared without hope of re-election. His remarkable skill, and apparent willingness to do anything to get elected, makes it foolish to write him off.

Although there is growing discontent on the Labour backbenches and much talk of a leadership challenge against Blair, the Labour party rules actually make such challenges very difficult. The basic requirement would be that 20% of Labour MPs wanted one, a threshold made all the more difficult to reach by the size of his majority. It would then have to be approved by the party conference. Unless the Iraq invasion goes horribly wrong - personally, I think it’s going to be a walkover, but you never know - I don’t see this happening. A straight vote of no confidence in the Commons would be even less realistic, again given his massive majority. More likely is that the marginalised discontented rumblings on the backbenches will grow, made all the more bitter by Blair’s renewed sense of invincibility.

I believe we’ll end up in a post Black Wednesday situation in the UK. A sullen electorate, determined to throw him out, like we were determined, come what may, to throw out the tories, unless Blair foes.

foes = goes

Ah excellent, I was hoping someone would start a thread along these lines so I wouldn’t have to bother.

Now I don’t know about Australia but there was certainly a fair bit of talk in the British papers over the weekend about Blair committing “political suicide” what with the protests and all. I even remember one opinion piece that claimed he’d be gone in three months.

This is highly unlikely but his life will become considerably more difficult if there isn’t a second UN resolution. If troops go in after that I would expect a fair number of the Parliamentary Labour Party to rebel but given the size of the Labour majority and the fact the Tories will back Blair over Iraq he’s in no danger of receiving a vote of no confidence.

Most military experts expect any campaign to be over pretty damn sharpish so If there’s minimal British casualties and Saddam is toppled in a month or two. Blair will get to play the military hero and public opinion will probably swing back onto his side. Certainly a quick victory on the battlefield never hurt Thatcher’s poll ratings.

I found it interesting that some Commentators have suggested that Blair has set a timetable for himself, Deal with Iraq this year, get Britain into the Euro next year and then hand the reigns over to Gordon Brown. This might at least partially explain why he’s willing to ride roughshod over public opinion for pretty much the first time in his tenure at Downing Street. I Also recall London Calling suggesting that he had ambitions to run of Presidency of the EU in a year or two but further details escape me. Hopefully he’ll turn up to elaborate.

As far as election cycles go, the Prime minster can call a general election at any point during his five year term in office. Blair won’t call one and I can’t see Parliament forcing one as stated above so he’s probably safe on that front. Also he’d probably still win given the current lacklustre state of the opposition.

However, there will be an election to Scottish Parliament in May and if this business in Iraq is still ongoing the Labour Party could take a bit of hammering for there pro war stance. It should be remembered that Scotland has always been more left wing than most of the UK and the Scottish National party is main opposition up here. It’s unlikely but just possible they could get a result come May.

Blair will stay on top as long as the Tories are a joke and his party can’t find an adequate replacement.

Howard, however, is a different story. He has won the last 3 elections, and, in recent years, no PM lasts for more than 3. Also, a no-confidence vote against him has already passed the Australian Senate. Either he will lose the next election, or (as happened to Bob Hawke) the party will dump him as PM.

The idea of Blair handing over to Brown is a very interesting one, which I’d never really considered before. I don’t believe that he would go through public pressure, however. The Tories are almost non-existent in political presence, resorting to a rag-bag of ideas that avoid any coherent political philosophy or identifiable ‘theme’. The most visible Conservative in recent weeks has been Norris and his rather weak mayoral campaign, with Duncan Smith virtually anonymous by comparison.

Should events continue like this, I can see only Kennedy benefitting – which is no bad thing.

Crusoe, I’ve often heard that Brown and Blair cut a deal when before the '97 election that Blair would be primeminster for two terms and then hand over to Brown. Obviously that can’t be confirmed but Brown is a pretty big hitter if somewhat dour. I can’t really think of anyone else on the labour front bench who is really up to the job.

I agree Kennedy and the Lib Dems will benefit but unless something outragous happens Labour will probably win at least the next two westminster elections. The Tories are going nowhere but The Libs would need at least one term as the main opposition over having a real shot at No. 10 and they are still a fair distance away from that.

If Blair continues to ignore popular opinion and also continues to act as though he’s in charge and both the EU and UN will come trailing after him wherever he goes, he’s going to find that he’s forced into defending his leadership position. At that point I can see him standing down as PM and the party electing JB to take his place.

At the moment there’s no real credible opposition party - the tories under Mr Anonymous-Duncan-Smith are in disarray and as yet Charles Kennedy doesn’t have enough support. However his speech on Saturday at the anti-war demonstration would stand him in good stead for picking up the wavering tory voters and winning them to his cause.

Does Alex Downer, Foreign Affaris Minister and former Liberal party leader, have a chance of replacing Howard?

I don’t think Downer would have a snowflakes chance.

When he was leader previously was during a period of great instability in the Liberal party - pretty much anyone with enough seniority got a quick turn in the barrel (in fact, so much so that they eventually started recycling again … hence Howard )

I don’t know how well he went policy-wise, but PR-wise he was an absolute disaster. Unlike Howard (who I personally detest, but everyone agrees has killer political instincts) he seems to have an unerring talent for doing things that make him look like a complete nit (anyone remember the fishnet stockings incident?)

He seems to have done quite well as foreign minister. If I were him, I’d want to stay there…

Howard’s pretty much indestructible at the moment, the bastard. Despite the massive rallies we’ve had in Australia he doesn’t give a shit and he’s STILL leading the two-party preferred opinion polls. The Australian Labor Party is picking up the pace, but doesn’t have a really strong leader who looks like an obvious replacement. There’s been talk of an election at the end of the year, and Howard has speculated about retirement at around this time so he might hand over the reigns to Costello, but I doubt it. I don’t think that they like each other at all, partly from Costello’s more liberal views, and also from Howards desire to make himself Menzies II (PM for 16 years on and off b/w the 30s and 60s).

If the Federal ALP gets it’s shit together and finds a really good, charismatic federal leader (Mark Latham, anyone??) then we’ve got a chance at getting rid of the little bastard.

On a side note, there’s speculation that the NSW state election next month may be treated as an unofficial referendum regarding the war. Whether or not this is the case, I don’t think anyone will ever admit it. Labor will claim that it was elected on it’s policy and past performance, and the (federal) Libs will point to Labors high polls going into the election.

Finally, if I may hijack slightly, can I just ask if anyone from a non-NSW state would be willing to vote for Bob Carr if he moved to Federal Labor?

Actually, Menzies served for 19 of the 27 years between 1939 and 1966.

I doubt that Howard will be the next Menzies. In part, Menzies had the good luck for the last 10 or so years he was in power of having the DLP take preferences from the ALP. There isn’t such a party on the scene anymore (The Dems are in trouble, One Nation’s going, and the Greens will go to Labor before they go to the coalition.)

Whoops. going off memory there.