Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Blunkett would have quit with Blair"

When Tony Blair came out and said he would have quit if he'd lost the war vote in the Commons, it was easily dismissed as yet another piece of Campbell-inspired propaganda. It was obviously true the PM would have been forced to go, but Blair telling the dramatic story himself made it big news.

All politicians love to be big news, so David Blunkett decided to tell the world that he would have quit, too. If you believe that, you'd believe he has a chance of being the next Labour leader.

If there was an ounce of truth in Blunkett's assertion, then he would not have waited until now to tell us. He would have told everyone at the time of the vote - problem is it may have had the reverse effect. Jack Straw got into the sucking-up-to-the-boss act, too. But does anyone seriously believe that any cabinet ministers would have gone down with Blair? Many have leadership ambitions, and to quit would have meant giving these up. I assume that MPs talk to the same party activists and union members as I do, and know that supporting the war is not a vote-winner with these people. When the Scottish First Minister unwisely said in a TV debate that he didn't think there was anyone who didn't now believe the war was right, his comments were greeted with howls of derision. It may be true that some Labour voters support Blair, but the party still has grave doubts, not helped by his determination to press ahead with Tory policies for the NHS.

Whatever the results of the local election, there will have been a huge abstention by Labour voters. The Baghdad bounce may have helped stop the rot, but the public is no longer enthused by Blair and new Labour.

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