One party who stands to gain in this election...
If there's one party that will benefit from the UK general election, it's Sinn Fein / IRA.
Despite the rough ride Gerry Adams received in the United States, it's the people of Northern Ireland who are voting, not the Irish Americans.
10 years ago, public opinion in America might have mattered, but ever since 9/11, Europe and America have drifted further apart. Whilst Americans no longer differentiate between "good" and "bad" terrorists, Europeans treat terrorism as a reality you just have to live with. It means that every time the IRA rob a bank or slit the throat of an opponent, the British and Irish Government must bend over backwards to indulge them.
The result has been to give Sinn Fein / IRA legitemacy whilst marginalising everyone else. When the IRA's bombing campaign was in full swing, Sinn Fein registered barely 10% of the vote. Ten years later, they have beome the largest nationalist party in the province. Terrified they might return to violence, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern have reacted to every IRA atrocity in the same way, by denouncing it...and then promptly rushing off to meet their chief apologist, Gerry Adams.
Whilst Americans may know Tony Blair as the man who is tough on Terrorism, in Northern Ireland he looks rather more like a modern day "Von Papen". For those of you unfamiliar, Franz Von Papen was the man who in 1933 enabled Hitler to enter the German Government. Whist no fan of Hitler, he believed that by giving Hitler power, he could "tame the beast". But in a little over three months, Hitler had taken over, abolishing democracy and establishing his reign of terror.
The comparisons with the 1930s don't end there. Watching Sinn Fein / IRA condemn the murderers of Robert McCartney (whilst simultaneously intimidating witnesses from coming forward) reminds me of a passage I read in Sebastian Hafner's book Defying Hitler. Describing the Nazi reign of terror, he writes:
"Whilst they were systematically torturing and murdering their defenceless victims, they declared in fine, noble words that not a single hair of anyone's head would be harmed and that never before had a revolution shed less blood or been conducted more humanely".
Tony Blair may want his place in the history books, but as Sinn Fein edge closer to power, it may be a legacy he lives to regret.