'Bruised win': Will Blair rethink alliance with Bush?
December 13, 2006 1:13pm CST
Tony Blair has won a historic third term as prime minister despite his controversial support to the US-led Iraq war. The result writes a new chapter in British political history, with Margaret Thatcher being the only other post war prime minister to have won three successive general elections. Blair’s integrity had taken a severe beating after the Iraq war and many feared that if voted back to power, Blair might once again join President Bush in another overseas misadventure against Iran, Syria or North Korea. Reduced majority While the opinion polls predicted that Blair had lost some ground, it was clearly not enough to lose his grip on power. The controversial support however, did cost Blair his personal standing with the Labour Party suffering a sharply reduced parliamentary majority. Blair's margin of victory is less than half of what it was in the Labour landslides of 1997 and 2001. The Conservatives won several target seats on large swings and the Liberal Democrats too had some gains to their credit. It may have been a muted victory but the fact remains that Blair did manage to get away with his Iraqi gamble. Strategic alliance UK's standing in the world has long depended on its close strategic alliance with the mighty USA. And the enthusiastic support for the Iraq war arose out of this very strategic necessity. Through months of criticism, Blair stood firm on his belief in the legitimacy of the United States' intervention in Iraq. When asked about the reasoning behind his alliance with President Bush, Blair bluntly reported to the press that the UK and US "share the same interests." Next on Blair's agenda is an early resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and here too the British leader is banking on America's intervention to expedite a lasting solution. EU pressure This time however, there exists another side of the story, which has so far remained a mute spectator to Britain's close proximity with the United States. This side is made up of other states in the European Union who are firmly opposed to the idea of a unilateral United States. With the changing world order the European Union is now growing in political clout and so is the strain on Blair to loosen his American binds. Presently, by aligning with the United States on many issues, Blair has been able to pursue a foreign policy independent of EU restrictions. But if he chooses to submit to European pressures, he is bound to lose influence in the United States. Regardless of whether Blair chooses to maintain his current strong ties to America, or begins to favor the European Union, he will need to exert influence over both entities in order to serve as an arbitrator between the United States and Europe. There is no getting away from the fact that Blair will have a far more difficult time in handling the dynamics of world equations, a story that is likely to dominate world politics.