Magazine article The Spectator

Norman Tebbit's American Cousin

Magazine article The Spectator

Norman Tebbit's American Cousin

Article excerpt

New York

WHEN New York's Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, decided recently to ban the keeping of ferrets as pets on the grounds that they were vile, ferocious beasts, the city's ferretowners went ballistic. One of them even dared to confront the Mayor on his weekly radio phone-in. 'This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness,' David from Oceanside was told by Mr Giuliani. 'You should consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist about this excessive concern how you are devoting your life to weasels. There are people in this city and in this world that need a little bit of help. Something has gone wrong with you.' Having finished his rant, the Mayor smiled his thin-lipped smile, the kind that keeps children awake at night.

At parties in Gracie Mansion, his official residence, Mr Giuliani cruises the room like a zombie. Suddenly, you will find his hand gripping your shoulder. He stares with his rictus smile, offers a 'How are youT, and moves on, his arm outstretched to his next victim. His shoulders are hunched, his suits cheap and baggy. He could be Norman Tebbit's American cousin.

As arguably the most effective politician in America over the past decade, however, Mr Giuliani has earned the right to speak and behave as he likes. Questioned last month about one of his fundraisers, who had received a special parking-permit, the Mayor replied, 'Oh my God, he's got a permit to park in the city. Oh my God, that's right, I'm a big crook.'

The first Republican to take over the city in 20 years, Mr Giuliani has turned New York around. Crime has plummeted, welfare rolls have shrunk, the once chronic city budget is now in surplus. Thanks also to a booming Wall Street, New York is glittering as never before.

Millennium Eve was the Mayor's crowning moment. Standing above two million people who jammed the streets around Times Square, he led the countdown to midnight. This ghoul-faced man with a comb-over and creepy lisp, once deemed unelectably nasty, is now the city's best cheerleader.

Once behind the voting-booth curtain, even the city's liberals have voted for him. After decades in which New York's management was in the grip of vapid gesture politics, pandering to the city's myriad ethnic groups, Mr Giuliani went back to basics. He made it safe to walk the streets again.

Before he took office in 1993, it had become a given that New York's natural state was anarchy, its bodily expression a palms-up shrug of the shoulders. Into this melee, he brought 'zero tolerance' and, to the horror of the hand-wringers, it worked. Crime dropped by 44 per cent, murder by 61 per cent, and in a few years New York had become the safest big city in America.

But now, as he faces Hillary Clinton in a contest for New York's vacant Senate seat, his temper, his intimidatory methods and his sometimes cruel wit are being questioned. The liberal honchos who have used this Italian bruiser to do their dirty work want him to vanish quietly from the stage and make way for the divine succession. He is the peasant general whose war is won and must now return to the fields. Thankfully, he is not going. Term limits prevent him from running for a third time for mayor, so the Senate is the obvious next step. He has more than earned his shot.

Some have argued that Mr Giuliani and Mrs Clinton are more similar than they are different. …

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