Blair’s Power Weakened
The May British elections showed a waning support for Tony Blair’s pro-EU government.
Though Mr. Blair is still prime minister of Britain, his Labor Party lost considerable authority in Parliament—making its unprecedented third term likely to be more of a lame-duck administration. Going from a 161-seat majority to a 67-seat majority within Britain’s 645-seat Parliament, Blair’s party drew only 36 percent of the vote—the lowest percentage of the popular vote in the country’s election history. Gaining in popularity is the Conservative Party.
Many attribute Blair’s loss of ground to his position on the Iraq war. While that may be part of it, we cannot ignore that a growing dissatisfaction exists among Britons with the European Union. The Conservative Party, which gained 44 more seats this election, rarely used the Iraq issue in its campaigns against Blair—but it is known for its heavily Euroskeptic platform.
British sentiment against the EU is swelling. The fact that Mr. Blair represents the staunchest pro-Europe position is likely to be yet another major strike against him—particularly in light of the proposed EU constitution being decisively rejected by the French and Dutch in recent referenda. With the future of the Union appearing shaky, the Conservative Party may look like sensible refuge for many Britons—distancing the country from the Continent even more.
For more on Britain’s part in a united Europe, see our July 2004 article “The Defining Moment Approaches”