- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

DECLINE AND FALL

They came to Washington to talk about the decline of the British Labor Party but quickly changed the subject to the expected revival of the British Conservative Party, after more than 10 years in the political wilderness.

“This forum should be entitled the ‘Decline of New Labor and Gordon Brown,’” Liam Fox, a Conservative member of Parliament, told a friendly audience at the conservative Heritage Foundation this week.

Mr. Brown, prime minister for only a year, is facing a political crisis, as the British economy falters and voters express deep dissatisfaction over the future of Britain. Mr. Brown had previously served as treasury secretary to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who swept to power in 1997 at the head of a revamped party that had been widely associated with far-left, working-class radicals.

Mr. Blair promoted the party as “New Labor,” more hip, more centrist and more upscale. His popularity and youthful image propelled Labor to a landslide victory, but his bloom faded over many issues, including his support for the war in Iraq. He stepped aside last year in favor of Mr. Brown.

“When President Bush came to Downing Street, he was the one who was wildly more popular,” Mr. Fox said, referring to Mr. Bush’s April visit with Mr. Brown at the prime minister’s office in London.

Polls show up to 70 percent of the British public dissatisfied with Mr. Brown and Labor in general. The housing market is falling at the fastest rate since 1991, and consumer confidence is at its lowest point since 1974. Labor lost three special parliamentary elections this year, including one to a candidate from the pro-independence Scottish Nationalist Party who won what had been a safe Labor seat for decades in Glasgow.

In the 2005 election, Labor lost 57 seats, holding on to 356 in the 646-seat House of Commons. The Conservatives won 198 in that election.

Some polls now show the Conservatives with a lead of 20 percent to 25 percent over Labor. Mr. Brown, whose future as Labor leader is also in jeopardy, must call a general election by 2010.

Mr. Fox, a defense expert, outlined how a new Conservative government would deal with security issues, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We’re not going to drop 18th century Jeffersonian democracy on 13th century failed states and expect them to work overnight,” he said, denouncing politicians who “expect too much too quickly.”

On the nuclear threat from Iran, Mr. Fox insisted that “nothing should be taken off the table,” including a military strike against Iran’s nuclear reactors.

Crispian Cuss, a former British Army spokesman and now a conservative activist, criticized the Labor government for cutting three infantry battalions.

“A Conservative government will inherit a military that is under-funded and under-manned,” he said.

Douglas Murray, director of the Center for Social Cohesion, dismissed Labor officials who view terrorism as a crime instead of a national security threat.

“A crime is when someone nicks your handbag,” he said. “Terrorism is when someone plants bombs outside a nightclub.”

NEW AMBASSADORS

Envoys from the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka presented their diplomatic credentials to President Bush this week.

Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba told Mr. Bush on Tuesday, “I was sent here by President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan with a clear mission to further strengthen the United Arab Emirates’ relationship with the United States.”

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya on Monday thanked Mr. Bush for the continued U.S. support of Sri Lanka “in its continuing struggle to combat terrorism” from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

  • Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washington times.com.