Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Cabinet swings behind Tony Blair"

One headline you could guarantee following the "war" cabinet was that they were "united" behind Blair. I don't believe it. There is no way that Clare Short supports Blair's war plans. All she has done is agree to keep her mouth shut - for now.

Robin Cook may have just been posturing, but his doubts are probably the same as most of the cabinet. Gordon Brown's long-awaited support for the Prime Minister, hidden in an FT interview, was hardly a ringing endorsement of war. Brown, like the rest of the cabinet, will be worried about the latest opinion polls that show Labour's lead tumbling, almost certainly because the public is not convinced about the case for war.

The so-called dossier on Iraq will not sway the party, either. Blair's statement in the Commons went down like a lead balloon. When the biggest cheers from back-bench Labour MPs are reserved for Charlie Kennedy, then you know Blair is in trouble.

The big question is, will he take any notice? He certainly won't worry about the lack of support from the party, but even he will not like to see a drop in his poll rating. No prime minister likes to be unpopular, particularly this one.

If Blair can keep the media on side, then he does have a chance and, so far, most of them have been prepared to swallow propaganda like the dossier.

Labour Party members are not so gullible, and at the Labour Party conference, they will want to have their say even if Blair doesn't want to listen. Let's hope someone in the cabinet has the guts to challenge Blair. Whoever does will be in a strong position eventually to replace him.

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