“Black Wednesday” once again

For those of you who aren’t closely following British news (or are being distracted by your own national scandals), it looks like the Blair cabinet is an wee bit of trouble, after being hit by what the media called either “triple whammy” or “black Wednesday” :

Labour’s authority as a government was severely shaken [Wednesday] when two of the prime minister’s closest allies faced calls for their resignation, and the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, went to ground after admitting an affair with his diary secretary.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats demanded that the home secretary, Charles Clarke, should quit over the chaotic release from prison of 1,000 foreign criminals. And Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, was repeatedly booed, barracked and slow-handclapped during her address to the Royal College of Nursing in which delegates shouted for her to go too. In the end, she was forced to abandon her televised speech because of repeated disruptions from the floor.

Tony Blair swiftly switched to full damage control mode, refusing to sack any of the three ministers and accusing the media of exagerating the crisis. To no avail. Today, The Economists talks (subscription required) ominously about a “Black April” threatening to engulf the reputation for sound management of the Blair cabinet (Blair haters : I know), in much the same way as the original Back Wednesday of 1992 had ruined that of the Conservatives for economic competence (Thatcher haters : I know).

Regardless of the impact of this week’s events on Blair’s future as Prime Minister (it’s all about economic models anyway), the whole stuff makes for fun political theater. Notably, it appears the “triple whammy” should really have been a mere double but for the attempt of John Prescott to use the media coverage of Charles Clarke’s blunders to try to bury the news, Jo Moore-style, of his extramarital adventure.

Seems like it didn’t quite succeed. At least John “Two Jags” Prescott has promptly earned a new nickname. Makes you love the British press.