- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001

British Prime Minister Tony Blairs only fear in todays general election is to wake up this morning to an island of sleeping Labour voters. Perhaps Labour voter apathy is indicative of what Mr. Blair has given his countrymen over the last four years: When it comes to reform, a royal snooze.
Voter turn out is predicted to be the lowest in years today, and Mr. Blair and his spin team has resorted to painting his competitor Conservative leader William Hague as "stuck" in the time of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, with little vision for the future. Mr. Blair has had trouble moving forward himself, though. He campaigned and won in 1997 on a platform of saving the National Health Service (NHS). Last week, the NHS was in danger of collapse as over half of general practitioners threatened to quit. They were being forced to see 40 to 50 patients a day, the family doctors said, often with only eight minutes allowed per patient.
Doctors arent the only constituency Mr. Blair will have to win over by today. There has been widespread disillusionment with what Labour has done (or not done) for social services, including health care and transportation. But the prime minister is using this lack of satisfaction to ask voters to give him a mandate to "finish" reforms he says hes started.
With most polls showing confidence among voters that Mr. Blair will win after all, the new Labour government would do well to face issues it was afraid to deal with during the campaign. The worst race riots in 15 years which were touched off last month with a fight between a Pakistani-Briton and a white teen-ager outside a fish and chips shop have left much to be done to rein-in nationalist and white supremacist groups.
Unemployment in Britain is at the lowest level in 26 years and due to the Thatcher legacy, Britain continues in a period of consistent economic growth, so Mr. Blair should have had a relaxing week. Instead, he was spending the day before the election warning his former fans that they may wake up Friday to the Conservatives running the country if they stay at home. It sounds like perhaps someone at the helm, not just his countrymen, has been sleeping.


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