I'm completely speechless about the way the Hutton Report turned out. After hearing a lot of reported evidence and reading a lot about the enquiry I'm not entirely sure I'm following the conclusions correctly.
Personally I feel the way the report has been concluded is actually going to bite Mr Blair and co much harder than if they had been found at fault - however small that fault may have been. Coming away from the enquiry without a blemish will make a lot of people distrust the report and the people involved even more. It does come across as extremely one-sided and seems to have either overlooked or ignored a fair amount of what was said at the time of enquiry - or certainly some of the evidence that I heard given in the live feeds or read later on.
Mr Blair is already vastly distrusted by a lot of the general public and I don't think this report will help. To me it feels contrived - like some underhandness has gone on to produce the best possible result for the governement. The fact that not a single major government player has been found at fault is stunning in my eyes. If Mr Blair puts on his characteristic 'smarmy' face on and he, and his collegues, spend too much time gloating over the victory and using it to both disect the structure and operations of the BBC and use it as a vindication for all the other unanswered questions to remain unanswered the honeymoon it allows him will soon vanish.
I think the way this is handled, alongside other issues such as the fiasco of the Higher Education Bill vote, will assist in splitting the Labour party internally and strengthen the mistrust (and feeling of helplessness) that sectors of the general population feel towards the current government. It will polarise the opposition.
Do I think Mr Blair will still be leading the Labour party in the elections of 2005? I really don't know. I think he is steadily becoming a vote-loser for Labour and has been since before the conflict in Iraq. More and more people just don't trust him and that is a bad place to be when your party is looking to win another term in office.
Another problem that Britain faces is still a lack of credible or powerful opposition. The Conservatives have strengthened under Howard but I think anyone would be fooling themselves if they think they are an electable party as yet. May be one day their banner will rise again. Personally I think it's a slippery slope down hill for the Conservatives. New Labour has moved into their traditional stomping ground and left only the old (and old could quite easily mean the age of most of the voters they have too) diehards sticking with the traditional Right Wing Party. The Conservatives are in dire need of gaining new voters and regaining a lot of their lost ones. This is unlikely to happen whilst Labour carries on tabling policies that the Conservatives would have loved to have championed.
The Liberal Democrats (and I'll put my hand up here - I am a card carrying LibDemer) are also not in the position to realistically challenge Labours throne. I honestly do think we're in for a big surprise next election in regards to the amount of seats the LibDems gain but I doubt it'll remove Labour from power. Yes you could say that the anti-Conservative vote at the end of John Majors government completely demolished the Conservatives and allowed Labour to gain such a strong majority in Parliament but at that time Labour were the main opposition party and had been for decades. For LibDems to be able to do the same would be miraclous. I also unfortunately don't think Charles Kennedy is the man to take the party to Number 10. He's a great man and has some great ideas and opinions but he hasn't got the charisma which is needed in this media-biased age. If Paddy Ashdown was still leading the party then I think Labour would certainly have something very serious to worry about. The LibDems need to be much more aggressive in their approach. Not only in Parliament but also in promoting the party, their beliefs, their policies. I must say that out of everyone I know (outside of the party faithful) is pretty much considering to vote LibDem at the next election as they are dissatisfied/disillusioned with Labour and don't consider the Conservatives an option. So maybe....;-p
The biggest threat to everyone at the next election is the no-showers. With the current trust in politicians, the government, and the lack of any really viable replacement there is a good chance that turnout at the next election will be very small. This would be a diaster. Not least because it could let in a terrible government and/or MPs but because it is depriving people of being heard. If someone doesn't vote no body hears the voice. It's not like they count how many people didn't vote and if that is the majority leave the seat empty or donate it to a good cause. If you are angry and hate the parties vote for the one that you find least offensive or share some ideals with. If all the no-showers voted Green then the Green Party would soon start winning quite a few seats for instance. Votes count - well in most places anyway ;-p
Anyway, I should stop ranting. I have a headache as it is without spending ages typing away a ranting monologue that you'll have stopped reading after the first two paragraphs (if you got that far). I'll apologise in advance as the closer we get to both the US and UK elections in the next couple of years I'll probably end up ranting more and more. Luckily you don't have to read them if you don't want to though. The power of the internet is a wondrous thing (grin).