"Ah, Mr Blair, come right this way - I have something I'd like you to see... This, Mr Prime Minister, is the door"
A big defeat for Tony Blair over on the 90 day detention motion. And yet he claims that MPs are 'out of touch' with public opinion. What he means, is that MPs are out of touch with his opinion. Blair has lead by force of personality throughout his PMship. He has willed his party to back him by sheer faith. When Blair was gold, and could do no wrong in the public's eyes, this worked - MPs were prepared to back him because he could win them votes come election time. However, Blair is now becoming a lame duck, rather like Bush is in America.
Ever since the Iraq war started going wrong, Blair has started to go wrong. Having pinned his reputation so closely to the war, and it being such an article of faith for Blair, he is now suffering as the war goes badly. (The same is true with Bush.) As the progress of the war faltered, and the insurgency began, Blair faced crucial votes on top-up fees and foundation hospitals. Although he won both votes, he was pushed very close to the wire, and for the first time, he looked fallible in power. Quite simply, his power of persuasion through personality (nice aliteration) was waning. Blair however did not react to this, and has tried to carry on the same style of leadership that worked for him in his first term-and-a-half.
Unfortuantely for Blair, the decay has continued as the war has continued to be a weight around his neck. This decay was throust into the public limelight at election time, when so few Labour MPs were using Blair in their election bumpf - he was losing them votes with the public. This fact was also demonstrated by countless opinion polls that showed that Gordon Brown, if he were Labour leader, would win the election with a majority of however many hundreds, compared to Blair's eventual 67.
As Blair's star faded with the public, so has his ability to persuade his parliamentary party through sheer faith. And yet he has so far seemed unable to change his leadership style. Where a better leader would try to adapt, and begin negotiating and compromising to achieve his aims, Blair has simply reacted with incredulity that his old way doesn't work.
With crucial votes on education and health coming up - votes on unpopular policy - Blair needs to start working on building support for his policy. He can no longer rely on the power of the whip to get his party behind him. If he fails to do so, the truth that Blair is a showman, not a politician, will be exposed - he can soundbite, he can debate in the chamber, but he simply cannot build support or a consensus.