A closer look at the British election results helps us to quantify (at least roughly) the effect of the Iraq war on the vote. Labour’s share of the popular vote declined by 4.5 percent, from about 40.5 percent to about 36 percent. The share of the anti-war Liberal Democrats increased by 4.4 percent. So one can argue that Blair’s decision to go to war and/or the way he went about it caused at most one tenth of his voters to defect.
The Conservative share of the vote increased by 1.5 percent. One can’t conclude from that change that its anti-immigration stance helped the party, although it’s possible the Conservatives would have done worse had they not pushed the issue hard.
Thanks to reader Scott Callahan for calling this point to my attention.
UPDATE: At least two additional factors should be considered in looking at the “share-swap” between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The first is the “Muslim factor” noted by Scott below. However, this factor does not cut against the view that going to war hurt Blair. It simply demonstrates one of the ways in which it did so — and an ominous one at that, considering British demographics.
The second factor is a mitigating one. Reader Martin Adamson tells me that issues of local taxation worked to the advantage of the Liberal Democrats. The Liberals advocate a tax rate tied to income, as against the system which Labour created, which is based on property values. The Liberal policy is very much more popular amongst the retired and other people on small or fixed incomes. Thus, the anti-war effect on Labour supporters may well have been less than 10 percent.
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