Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Shadow of Iraq

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

The Shadow of Iraq

Article excerpt

Byline: By Bill Doult

Election fever it ain't! With election day just over a week away, the streets, lanes, by-ways, towns and villages which make up Sedgefield constituency seem remarkably hustings-free.

Represented by Tony Blair for 22 years, this pleasant County Durham seat has recently hosted the most powerful man in the world and has enough parliamentary candidates to form a rugby team.

In theory, therefore, Sedgefield should be awash with canvassers and frenetic political activity as the eyes of the world focuses on its verdict. In theorya

In practice? Well, the fine folk of Ferryhill, Newton Aycliffe, Trimdon and Sedgefield town, appear to be cheerfully unconcerned, with more pressing matters on their mind: "Sorry pet, can't stop, got to get my lunch."

Which is entirely understandable. Sedgefield is one of those seats where the Labour vote is not so much counted as weighed. Blair's majority was more than 25,000 when he came to power in 1997 and was still an insurmountable 17,700-plus, four years ago.

Challenging him from the main opposition parties are Conservative Alan John Lockwood and Liberal Democrat Robert Woodthorpe Browne.

The overall result is not in doubt, but scratch beneath the calm surface of Sedgefield life and you'll find significant messages for Tony Blair.

For the Iraqi war has come for Tony Blair in his own backyard.

Confirmation emerged with the Evening Gazette's own unscientific straw poll.

For Mr Blair, its findings bring good news and bad news.

The good news is that he is not going to lose his seat.

The bad news is that Mr Blair has lost the trust of a serious chunk of former supporters.

What the poll shows was that many who have voted Labour all their lives are disillusioned; angered by what they regard as deliberate deceptions, even lies, to propel Britain into George W Bush's war against Iraq.

With the unravelling of the case for war, Mr Blair has constantly shifted his ground.

Such things are resented. As a result, former Labour supporters 73-year-old John Rothwell have reached the conclusion he can no longer trust Tony Blair about anything.

It was a view echoed by nearly a third of the Sedgefield voters who took part in our poll ( although some insist they will still stay loyal to Labour.

There are those who enthusiastically endorsed the decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein, not least midwife Marie Richards who herself served as a Queen Alexander Royal Army nurse in the war zone.

Mrs Richards spent four and a half months in the Gulf, nursing wounded troops in Kuwait and Basra, recently receiving a medal for her services.

Nevertheless, the legacy of lost confidence in Tony Blair is substantial, which is why Iraq has been dubbed Labour's Basil Fawlty factora "Don't talk about the war. …

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