Local elections should, of course, be contested over local issues (“This is a local election, for local people. There’s no place for you here!”); they should not be an indication of popularity for the current government. But then, bungling and incompetent home secretaries should resign when they oversee a state department that has spectacularly failed to enforce its own policy regarding deportation of immigrants released from prison – something that caused the biggest stink since Le Pétomane followed through. The point is, things don’t often work the way they’re supposed to. Therefore, the people that bothered to vote in yesterday’s local elections (and I must confess, somewhat shamefully, that I wasn’t one of them) were inevitably going to treat it as an opportunity to pass judgement on Tony Blair and his government. Not surprisingly, engulfed as they are by a seemingly never-ending litany of disasters and embarrassments, Labour were given a swift, hard kick in the ballots.
Blair’s response this morning was to reshuffle the cabinet (that old adage about moving the deckchairs around on the Titanic comes to mind), in an attempt to reassert his rapidly dwindling authority. Unsurprisingly, Charles Clarke has been booted out as home secretary to make way for John Reid. Embarrassing, because Clarke was originally brought into the third most important position in government in place of David Blunkett, who stepped down over the infamous fast-tracked visa scandal. Meanwhile, John Prescott has been stripped of his ‘super ministry’ (responsible for, erm, ‘super’ things), but keeps his title of deputy prime minister, effectively making him the country’s most prominent eunuch.
I’m personally finding it difficult to care about any of this. Interesting events, to be sure, but I’m so indifferent to all the political parties these days, their relative fortunes and dips in public opinion are of very little consequence to me. It seems clear that Tony Blair is fast coming to the end of his days as PM: the problems of the last week or so have underscored this. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a vote of no confidence sometime later this year, followed by a quick transition to Gordon Brown.
Of course, I may be wrong. I don’t know. What do you think?