Leader of the British Labour Party, and Prime Minister (1997-). The electoral system here allows for five year terms, but the PM has the option of calling early elections if the wind happens to be blowing in the right direction. Blair seems likely to call elections in April or May of 2001.

Blair has done precisely what he proposed to do: follow the 'Third Way'. Life for the poor has improved immeasureably since Labour took office. At the same time, capitalism and 'business' have thrived. Unfortunately, the Left despise him for being a toady to capitalism, and the Right still think he's going to bring in Communism by stealth.

It appears that the public broadly support Blair and New Labour - opinion polls still put them 10-15% ahead of the Conservative (Tory) Party.

Tony Blair's New Labour has made a career of being ever-so-slightly better than their main 'opposition,' the Conservative Party, from the point of view of the vaguely left wing types who make up most of its potential voters. Under Labour the privatisation program has slowed down a tiny bit; public spending was lower in the last parliament than it was in the one before, but not that much lower; schools and hospitals eventually had a little bit more money allocated to them than they had under the Tories; British foreign policy is no longer quite so steeped in ruthless military profiteering; and so on.

However, in the realm of Law And Order they have been falling over themselves to be even more right wing than the previous incumbents with a range of measures to horrify the civil libertarians among us. In spite of a massive shift in public opinion favour of more liberal drug laws they seem to have been trying very hard to avoid holding a rational debate on this issue, which apparently scares them rigid. However since David Blunkett replaced Jack Straw as Home Secretary several positive steps have been taken in this direction: Just a week after he came to the job, police in Lambeth, South London announced (apparently with government approval) that on an experimental basis they would no longer be wasting their time giving police cautions for possession of cannabis. A few months later David Blunkett told the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on drug use that he would like to see cannabis downgraded from Class B to Class C, meaning that its possession would no longer be an arrestable offence.

Also on the plus side, their constitutional reforms in the direction of devolution are, on balance, probably a good thing, and in the long term may turn out to be of great importance.

Tony Blair himself has a habit of coming across as insufferably smug and insincere. Apparently he still has not realised that his success in opinion polls is due almost entirely to the depth and breadth of people's dislike for the Tories. Hence, rather than taking Labour's crushing defeat of the Tories (in the 1997 election) as a sign that people were sick of Tory policies, and as a mandate to do away with them, he took it as a sign that everyone loves him, and as a mandate to enforce Tory policies while grinning and pretending to be more-or-less left-wing.

Blair has a stormy relationship with the electorate. In recent years the weakness of the Official Opposition, the Conservative Party enabled him to maintain a clear lead in the polls, due primarily to the misguided leadership of William Hague between 1997 and 2001, and the recent failure by Iain Duncan Smith to reunite a bickering, self-obsessed Tory party. With the recent "coronation" of Michael Howard as Conservative leader, Blair's position looks to be weakened considerably.

Blair's biggest problems lie in his inability to find a position for Britain in the world. On the one hand he is considered to be in the pocket of the United States, on the other he is considered to be too willing to sacrifice sovereignty to the EU. This causes problems for him both at home and overseas. Around 80% of the population here feels he is giving away too many powers to the EU. Britain is traditionally slightly aloof in Europe, a position that has done much good for both the EU and Britain, especially in terms of being the "bridge" between Europe and America. Yet Blair feels justified in adopting laws set by Europe that limit Britain's ability to act independently - the proposed European Constitution would effectively remove Britain's ability to go to war without the backing of the EU. That being the case, we would not have been allowed to go to war with Iraq recently, nor would we have been allowed to go to war in the Falkland Islands in defence of British citizens without the backing of an unelected, unaccountable EU Commissioner.

His relationship with Europe, he feels, will be the greatest legacy he leaves when he is eventually ousted either by the electorate or an increasingly rebellious Labour Party. However, the public feels let down by this. In order to improve relations with Europe, he is employing such misguided tactics as discussing Gibraltar's sovereignty with the Spanish, and adopting the far-reaching Constitution without offering the population a referendum. He tries to maintain support for his European policy by setting out clearly defined "red lines," areas of national sovereignty which, he says, the EU will not take control of. While this sounds noble, some point out that in actual fact it indicates an acceptance that the EU will take over other areas.

On the American question, although many in the electorate feel Britain gains more from our Special Relationship with the USA than from our stormy relationship with Europe it is also a widely-held belief that we are sometimes too willing to go with America without proper reference to the UN and our European partners. The recent conflict in Iraq is a perfect example.

Blair's biggest political challenge is, therefore, to convince pro-Europeans of the importance of our relationship with America, and to convince Euroskeptics of the value of being very close to the EU. And at every step, Blair seems only to alienate more and more voters.

Blair is successful in some ways, though. For a start he made the Labour Party, almost a Parliamentary pariah in the 1980s, an apparently unbeatable, slick and very popular political machine. He has adopted many of the tactics that helped Bill Clinton - and even Margaret Thatcher - to power, and has modernised his party to make it more electable. Although the older members of his party feel annoyed and disgusted by this, most accept the fact that it was necessary if Labour was ever to have a chance of being in Government again. The voters feel he is a charismatic leader - if somewhat oily and given to deception - and his image as a family-loving Christian appeals to the middle classes. Traditionally the bastion of the Conservative party, the middle classes are now the main source of votes keeping Labour in power, thanks largely to Blair's reashaping of Labour's traditional ideology.

His position as his party's leader is becoming increasingly weak at the moment. Some of his closest supporters - particularly Frank Dobson, who resigned in 1998 and Robin Cook and Clare Short, who resigned over Iraq - have deserted him, and even turned hostile. Cook's memoirs, published recently under the telling title Point of Departure, are already causing a storm by revealing Blair's own doubts about Saddam Hussein's ability to attack British interests. By far the majority of his party feel he has acted illegally and undemocratically by going to war with Iraq. And his biggest political nemesis happens to be his closest colleague, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Brown and Blair were vying for the Labour leadership following the death of John Smith, another modernising Labour leader, and they famously made an agreement (strenuously denied by both) at the Granita restaurant in 1997 that Blair would lead with Brown as Chancellor. It has emerged in the past that plans existed for Brown to take over if Labour was returned for a third term, but it seems Blair has reneged on that deal.

I think that Labour will be returned for a third term with Blair as Prime Minister. The party's lead over the Conservatives in Parliament is far too strong for it to be toppled, although I feel certain it will be cut to as few as 80 seats. And Blair's days are numbered - he will probably be ousted by his own party mid-term, and my bet is on Jack Straw, the extremely capable Foreign Secretary to take over. And I will save a writeup on Straw until he is Prime Minister!

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