Blair Sweats It Out: Bush May Have Angered Much of the World, and Even His Most Stalwart Ally Faces a Revolt within His Own Political Party

Article excerpt

Byline: Stryker McGuire

Tony Blair thought he was doing the world a favor. After the attacks of September 11, the British prime minister calculated that he could restrain President George W. Bush's instinctive unilateralism and turn him into "a born-again internationalist," as a Blair associate once put it. At first, it seemed to work. With Blair as his evangelist in chief, Bush assembled the broad coalition that went to war in Afghanistan and against Al Qaeda. Then came Iraq. With Blair urging him on, Bush dutifully sought the support of the U.N. Security Council. Now, amid the wreckage of that effort, Bush has been profoundly frustrated by his experiment in internationalism--but Blair is in much deeper trouble.

In the tearooms of the House of Commons, where Blair has commanded an unassailable majority since 1997, there's even conspiratorial talk about the need for "regime change" in London. "Whatever happens, I think he will emerge diminished in authority," Chris Smith, a Labour member of Parliament who was in Blair's first cabinet, told NEWSWEEK. "I think the better course of action would be [for him] to step aside. If there's no U.N. authorization and he proceeds, three quarters of the population and a very substantial number of M.P.s in his party will be against him."

Things are bad enough already. Popular support for a war without U.N. authority has sunk to 19 percent. Blair's party erupted in full revolt last month, when nearly a third of Labour's M.P.s asserted that the case for going to war in Iraq was "as yet unproven." If Blair goes to war without U.N. backing, one or more of his cabinet ministers may resign. …