Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The US Election Can Only Be Bad for Blair

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The US Election Can Only Be Bad for Blair

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Linford

Every four years, a cry goes up from a certain section of the British public over why we devote so many column inches to an election taking place on the other side of the Atlantic.

As someone who finds American politics a mystery to compare with the origins of the universe, I have some sympathy with that view.

But there is a good reason for the seemingly blanket coverage of US presidential contests, in that they are invariably closely bound up with political developments this side of the pond.

With an election of our own in the offing next May, it is impossible to underestimate the potential impact of the Bush-Kerry prize fight next Tuesday on the British political scene.

Merely a cursory glance at recent political history shows the extent of the interrelationship, with shifts in public opinion in the two countries usually occurring in the same direction.

For instance, the victory of John F. Kennedy in the 1960 US presidential election ushered in an era of progressive politics that eventually found its British echo in Harold Wilson's 1964 triumph.

The hope and optimism of those years soon faded, and the late 60s and early 70s saw a swing back to the moderate, pragmatic conservatism of Richard Nixon and Edward Heath.

A further brief leftish interregnum represented by Jimmy Carter and Jim Callaghan in mid-70s was followed by a decisive and lasting shift to the right at the end of that decade.

On this occasion it was Britain's voters who led the way, electing Margaret Thatcher in 1979 ( a full 18 months before her political soulmate Ronald Reagan's landslide win over Carter.

The Conservative hegemony which the two Cold Warriors established lasted more than a decade, taking in the fag-end administrations of George Bush Senior and John Major respectively.

The tide finally began to turn with the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992, which re-energised Labour by showing it was still possible for left-of-centre parties to win.

When Tony Blair and New Labour duly triumphed in 1997, it seemed the wheel had come full circle since JFK's heady early days.

If you follow this analysis to its logical conclusion, the current ascendancy of George W. Bush and the American "neo-cons" should presage a corresponding rightward shift in British public opinion.

However, there are special factors attached to the Bush presidency ( and for that matter the Blair premiership ( which perhaps make this presidential election the exception that proves the rule.

Firstly, Mr Bush didn't really win the 2000 election ( he lost it to Al Gore in terms of the popular vote, before eventually winning it in Florida's Supreme Court.

Secondly, Mr Blair has changed all the rules of left-right discourse, occupying most of the Tories' political ground while aligning himself with the most right-wing US president for decades. …

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