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Even if Labour Wins, Blair Faces Battle

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/britain_election Even if Labour Wins, Blair Faces Battle By ED JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 29 minutes ago LONDON - Tony
    Message 1 of 2 , May 3 1:20 PM
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/britain_election

      Even if Labour Wins, Blair Faces Battle

      By ED JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 29
      minutes ago

      LONDON -
      Tony Blair is favored to win a third term in
      Thursday's elections � but his ability to survive for
      long as prime minister will rest on the margin of
      victory by the Labour Party, which includes strong
      opponents of his
      Iraq war policy.

      If Blair's now solid lead in the House of Commons
      slips, he could face a struggle to control those in
      his party who are disillusioned with him, not only
      over the war but over economic policies they consider
      too conservative. Senior members might then challenge
      him for leadership.

      "The election has become a referendum on Blair, and a
      small margin will be viewed as a negative, showing him
      the door," said Bill Jones, a political analyst at
      Manchester University.

      The unhappiness showed up Tuesday when families of
      some British soldiers killed in Iraq marched on
      Blair's office to demand a public inquiry into the
      legality of the war.

      A voter angry about the war also challenged the prime
      minister at one of his campaign stops. Blair repeated
      his position that it was a difficult decision to send
      troops to Iraq, but he did what he felt was right.

      "I think what you have got to ask yourself in the end
      is ... what is going to determine the future of this
      country, and I believe it is the economy, the health
      service and schools and law and order," he said.

      Blair revitalized his party and led it to landslide
      election victories in 1997 and 2001 after 17 years of
      Conservative Party rule, and he held a huge majority
      in the just dissolved House of Commons � about 150
      seats more than the combined opposition in the
      646-seat chamber.

      Few analysts expect another landslide, so the question
      has turned to how far Labour could fall.

      A majority of 100 for Labour would be comfortable,
      said Phil Cowley, a political analyst at Nottingham
      University. But at results below that, it will become
      increasingly tougher to control a rebellious group of
      some 50 Labour legislators who have persistently voted
      against the government's policies.

      Many of those are angry about Britain's involvement in
      Iraq, as are other Labour members who felt compelled
      to support Blair on the war. Many of the rebels also
      are unhappy that Blair dumped much of the party's
      socialist ethos and feel he is aping the free market
      policies championed by former Conservative Prime
      Minister Margaret Thatcher.

      Blair's government only narrowly defeated Labour
      revolts in the last parliament, including the crucial
      vote to go to war in Iraq and legislation to introduce
      tuition fees for university students, allow more
      private funding for state-run hospitals and toughen
      anti-terrorism laws.

      With a smaller majority, Blair could find himself
      losing votes in the Commons � throwing his future as
      Labour leader and prime minister into doubt.

      "Between 80 and 100, Blair has a cushion, but falling
      below that it will be awkward and embarrassing and he
      will struggle to govern," Cowley said.

      If Labour's majority slips to 40 or below, analysts
      say Blair's days as prime minister would probably be
      numbered, although governing would not be impossible.

      Thatcher won with a majority of 43 in 1979. Her
      successor, John Major, struggled along with a majority
      of 21, which shrank toward zero at the end of his
      five-year term in 1997.

      But for Blair's lead to slip so drastically would be a
      striking sign of unpopularity.

      He has already announced he plans to step down after
      serving another full term as prime minister � usually
      four or five years. But a weakened majority could
      bring a leadership challenge sooner.

      Treasury chief Gordon Brown, widely respected for his
      stewardship of Britain's economy, is popular in the
      party and considered a likely successor.

      "The smaller the majority, the more vulnerable he will
      be during the course of the Parliament to adverse
      events or declining popularity," said John Curtice, a
      political analyst at Strathclyde University.

      Despite simmering anger over the war and general
      grumbling about the 8-year-old government, most
      analysts say Labour is assured a victory Thursday.

      A MORI survey for the Financial Times published
      Tuesday put Labour at 39 percent support among likely
      voters, well ahead of the main opposition
      Conservatives at 29 percent and the Liberal Democrats,
      the only major party to oppose the war, at 22 percent.

      "If money talks, then the Labour Party is past the
      post already," said Simon Clare, spokesman for the
      Coral betting shops, which rate a Tory victory as a
      20-1 long shot.
    • Ram Lau
      ... Has anyone ever expected the Conservatives to win to begin with? Ram
      Message 2 of 2 , May 3 6:46 PM
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        > "If money talks, then the Labour Party is past the
        > post already," said Simon Clare, spokesman for the
        > Coral betting shops, which rate a Tory victory as a
        > 20-1 long shot.

        Has anyone ever expected the Conservatives to win to begin with?

        Ram
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