Tony Blair is under fire. As a third term prime minister he is vulnerable. He has already announced that he will go before the next election, so his patronage has diminished. Despite a majority of 70 he is having difficulty in getting his legislation through parliament. This is probably because his agenda is not traditionally Labor.
Britain has a long tradition of preferring well spoken, well dressed, well mannered leaders. Tony Blair, the ex-public school lawyer easily beat the grammar school, Johnny-come-lately, John Major in 1997; but Blair was an anomaly. Previous Labor leaders like Welsh windbag Kinnock, scruffy Michael Foot, Yorkshire pipeman Wilson, did not have Blair's polish, and it is doubtful if anyone other than Blair would have won that election for Labor. In subsequent elections the Conservatives but up their own blunt Yorkshireman, Haigh (who in any case was bald) and the ageing Howard (who was both bald and Jewish). Now they have selected Cameron, a well dressed, well spoken, well mannered Old Etonian who is both younger than Blair and looks it. It takes no crystal ball to recognise that Cameron will walk the next election, especially against the miserable Scotsman Brown, who is respected for his efficiency but liked by virtually no-one.
The cracks in the Labor cause are already appearing. The Labor left are fed up with Blair's middle class values. The education Bill only got through with Tory support and the Health Bill will be attacked for similar reasons. It is unlikely that the Identity Cards legislation will pass unscathed. But before all that we have the tang of sleaze. John Major's Tories were tainted with sleaze. No that's unfair. The Tories were no more sleazy than any other government. It was just that people decided that it was time for them to go. In Blair they saw a better model. Now the same thing is happening in reverse. The focal point at the moment is Chai Patel. He among others lent the Labor Party over a million pounds to fight the last election. The terms of the loan are vague, but it seems apparent that it was a disguised gift. Certainly the Party is in no position to repay the £10 million that they borrowed from him and other donors. They owe more than that to the bank who will not be so forgiving. No, it was expected that after a while the "loan" would be quietly forgotten about. But being a loan rather than a gift it didn't have to be declared to parliamentry scrutiny.
Why would the donors do this? In return they were expecting peerages. Entry to the smartest club in London, and the right to call yourself Lord. It looks good on the Business stationery and the wife likes to be called Lady (though she would settle for a knighthood - she would still be a Lady). It was only when someone queried Chai's fitness to be a Lord that the fiddle was revealed.
I knew Chai in the 1980s. He was a junior doctor in my hospital. He was very good. Smart, organized, efficient, very bright; he rescued one of my acute leukemia patients at a time when we had inadequate antibiotics and poor supportive care. After he left us I heard that he had been headhunted by a major investment company. He had been investing for himself on the stock market while a junior doctor, and made a good profit. He has since made a lot more money by running a chain of nursing homes.
I was sorry to see him the subject of such adverse publicity. I liked and admired him. He is a severe warning to stay clear of politicians. The dirt rubs off.