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Last Updated: Friday, 18 April, 2003, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Did Blair risk all?

By Ben Davies
BBC News Online political staff

Leaders love to give the impression they risked all for a cause and in that Tony Blair is no exception.

And indeed the prime minister did take a huge risk joining the Americans in attacking Iraq when most of the UK seemed opposed to war.

Mr Blair even suffered a rebellion of historic proportions at the hands of his own backbenchers when MPs voted on military action.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair took a bold decision
And had everything gone belly-up in Iraq it is quite likely that it would have had a dramatic effect on the premier's career.

But to claim - in an interview with the Sun - that he put his job on the line is over-egging it to say the least.

If you've got a majority the size of Mr Blair's, things would have to go spectacularly wrong for your MPs to turn around and effectively boot their most electorally successful leader out of office.

It is true that, if the prime minister had had to rely on Tory backing to win through in the lobbies of the Commons, things would have become extremely uncomfortable.

But Labour has had a pretty stringent selection process for its would-be MPs for a good number of years now and there are plenty of people on the backbenches with an eye on their own futures who can be relied on to vote with the government.

So Mr Blair took a big risk and that takes guts, but to talk about quitting after the war is all but won sounds a bit like bar-room bravado.

It is no coincidence that this first post-war interview was with the Sun.

Polenta and chips

The paper has been fulsome in its support for the war.

That and its high circulation may have contributed to the prime minister's decision to talk to its political editor Trevor Kavanagh.

It has been said of Mr Blair that he adapts his rhetoric to suit his audience - his favourite food in Islington being polenta, when in the north east he likes to eat fish and chips.

In this interview the prime minister compares his role to the highs and lows of a premiership football manager.

It is a nice populist analogy and it seems that Mr Blair feels that war in Iraq has not turned out to be the political own goal it so easily could have become.

He knows there will be difficulties ahead but for now he believes events have justified his conviction that military action was necessary.

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