By Ray Fleming
MOST definitely he should go. Blair made the issue of 90–days imprisonment without charge for terrorist suspects a matter of confidence in his leadership and he was soundly defeated on it. Prime Ministers have resigned for less in the past. Moreover, the defeat was inflicted mainly by the votes and abstentions of some sixty of his own Labour MPs. Repeatedly Tony Blair says he cannot understand why opponents of his policy worry over the extended detention of suspected terrorists but not over the protection of British citizens from attack. His inability to see the point is revealing. The government's proposal involved a major change in the centuries–old principle of habeas corpus which requires that no one should be detained for an unreasonable time without being charged with an offence. Of course, circumstances change, as Blair has said, but if something as fundamental as habeas corpus is to be tampered with the public and parliament needs to be able to trust the person who will be in charge. Tony Blair does not have that trust. Too many MPs think that under him the change would be the start of a slippery slope to further limitations on individual freedoms and human rights. The argument that the polls show he has public support is irrelevant; Parliament, not polls, should make the decisions. There are other reasons why he should go. He was “economical with the truth” when recommending that Britain should invade Iraq and he has failed to say “sorry” for that or for the debacle that has followed. A further reason for his departure is this: prime ministers have to go when they lose the confidence of a sufficient number of their backbenchers. This is what happened to Thatcher and Major and it will happen to Blair over his public services reform programme. If he stays there will be a prolonged internal fight in the government at a time that international and national issues need a strong, unified government, especially in the probable absence of a revived Conservative party. In the interests of the Labour party, the government and the country, Mr Blair should go, and soon.


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