Monday, January 03, 2005
Political Fallout (03.10.2004)

The short response from Jack Straw to criticisms of the government's response to the British victims of the tsunami says more about New Labour's highhandedness than the flaws revealed since Boxing Day. There is anecdotal evidence that the Foreign Office was unable to draw the resources necessary to meet the demands of a concerned public. Without a willingness to provide a clear and accurate assessment of their actions, a cynical public will take Jack Straw's statement that the Foreign Office was "exemplary" with scepticism.

Now the opposition parties are beginning to voice their criticisms, days after people needed someone to speak up for them. Charles Kennedy never saw a bandwagon that he didn't jump upon and this issue has proved no exception:

Ministers have faced mounting criticism of their handling of the relief effort with opposition MPs suggesting the public was quicker to react, donating millions to aid agencies within days.Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy today questioned the Mr Blair’s refusal to cut short his holiday and said the Government was playing “catch-up” with public opinion.Tory leader Michael Howard has also said he would have returned home if he had been in Mr Blair’s position.

As the Tories and the Liberal Democrats remain in 'catch-up' mode as well, no political party has been able to tap into or articulate the mood of public disaffection. The government is aware that this is a general groundswell, rather than a lightning rod that will undermine their electability. However, these individuals will join the growing number who have experienced the incompetence of the British state and withdraw from the crater of lies that now characterises our politics.

In private, Blair will be reflecting that he can no longer judge the public mood as he once did, a lack of touch that portends the political failure awaiting all politicians. In a more cynical moment, he will compare Britain with Sweden where the deaths of many more tourists has translated into political crisis.


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