Well what a week it’s been, and it’s only Thursday. We have the neo-con wipe out at the American midterm elections where the Democrats took the House of Representatives and seem likely now to take the Senate too as news comes in that Virginia has gone Democrat with Jim Webb narrowly beating Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen, who may concede very soon. And this despite Bush using the suspiciously timely sentencing to death of Saddam Hussein to try and boost his chances. We also have the fall-out of that election starting early with the ‘resignation’ of Donald Rumsfeld, a move which seems to have widespread approval, quite understandably. His replacement, Robert Gates however doesn’t look like being a vast improvement although he might have a more sensible attitude regarding Iran. And that is possibly the best news about this election, hopefully, plans to attack Iran have been shelved (provided, of course, that the Democrats don’t decide to pursue that reckless policy).
Just how much things will change with the Democrats in control of both Houses of congress remains to be seen. We know that they originally supported the Iraq war and are unlikely to pull the plug on Bush’s pet project straight away. They can be just as hawkish about Iran, and we know also that whoever is in power in the USA will support Israel but there is a chance they will work harder to find a solution. However despite the failings of the democrats there is an undeniable change in the air which is a cause for celebration.
One aspect of the Democrat victory which promises to be interesting is the possibility of a series of inquiries into such things as the Iraq war and Guantanamo etc. We’ve already seen here in the UK, our leaders decide that an inquiry into the Iraq war wouldn’t be in
our their best interests, but what will happen if a full inquiry is called across the pond? There is no way that Blair’s role in this fiasco could be ignored and information that Blair wants to remain hidden would inevitably come into the public arena and make the case for an inquiry here in the UK all the stronger. And let’s not forget Blair’s denials and non-answers over issues like extraordinary rendition, torture etc. If the Democrats start digging, I expect Blair will become increasingly nervous. Another wobble for Blair’s nerves will be the possibility that as Bush becomes more unpopular in the Unites States, so will Blair. Who knows maybe they won’t want to buy his memoirs or pay top dollar to listen to him and his wife talk when they join the usually lucrative lecture circuit.
Not that our Prime Minister’s nerves were that tranquil before the midterm elections. This week has produced some interesting nuggets of news over here too. I’m referring of course to the cash for honours investigation which seems to have gone onto over-drive and is progressing steadily towards Number Ten Downing Street. This week it was revealed that Gordon Brown and John Prescott had been contacted by the police and was asked to tell them what they knew about the scandal. Later it turned out the whole cabinet have been asked to supply information. This makes the eventual questioning of Tony Blair a near certainty. There is still a possibility that Blair will escape any criminal charges, at least until he has left office, but that is not a given. We have heard rumours of a ‘killer e-mail’ which spells bad news for Blair and Lord Levy. Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff has been interviewed and may face further questions under caution. We were also treated to the spectacle of Blair’s best hope, the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith (a close friend of the Prime Minister who had donated money to Labour and who had been ennobled by Blair) being in a position to decide if a prosecution should go ahead, evaporate.
So two stories of comeuppance, one on each side of the Atlantic, in the same week. Perhaps there really is a change happening and some cause for optimism. But if that is the case, it is only a beginning. Iraq is still a disaster and will remain so whatever happens here or in America. Bush and Blair are still in power although both are badly damaged lame ducks limping towards their exit from the world stage. Still it’s a start.