- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2005

This year will see British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been a good friend to President Bush and true heir to Margaret Thatcher, seek a third term in office. His socialism rebranded as “New Labour” is a success built in part on taking the American relationship and the Thatcher inheritance from the British Conservative Party. However, the president will soon find himself doing business with a quite different prime minister, one who may not be the close ally that Mr. Blair has been.

As much as some argue it is a forgone conclusion that Mr. Blair will be returned to office, it is also as likely that if he does he will soon find himself out of the office. For within a year or so, we will undoubtedly see the increasingly impatient Scottish son of the manse Gordon Brown,currently chancellor of the exchequerand Prime Minister in waiting, being usheredinto Number 10.

Whether there is a friendly passing of power, a night of the long knives or a palace coup will depend upon how readily Mr. Blair will let go of the reins once re-elected. The viciousness of the Conservatives’ rejection of Margaret Thatcher may be a lesson to be learned from. What will this new leader be like? Should Mr. Brown become prime minister, he will increase public-sector spending and want to strut on the international stage with his pet policies for the poor of the world. He will try and balance a relationship with America with a front seat in the powerhouse of the European Union. Mr. Brown wants to increase state power, cancel Third World debt and win a Nobel Peace Prize for ridding both Britain and the world of poverty.

He wishes to be seen as a “credible socialist,” able to smile amongst the financial elite of London as he redistributes the wealth of Britain and the world. His socialism will no doubt sit well with his European friends, but the president may find his brand of international socialism less palatable than the politics of Mr. Blair.

Of course, the popular thought is that Mr. Brown has always been the real power behind New Labour, made Britain economically strong and will continue in the same direction. However, while this may be true of his tenure as number two, will it be the same when he takes the top position? There has to be a worry that as a leader he will take the opportunity to return to his Old Labour roots.

At a recent celebration in London addressed by Mr. Brown, the mildly eccentric Socialist Member of Parliament Tony Benn suggested that socialism is going to make a “surprising comeback.” Apart from smoozing with what used to be known as the “Loony Left,” Mr. Brown has been shoring up his support amongst other members of Parliament, while the current incumbent looks increasingly like a lame duck. If he steps into Prime Minister Blair’s shoes, unelected, then we will find in Britain a truly elected dictatorship.

While all this goes on, the White House continues freezing out the Conservative Party because of the Iraq war, opposed by Michael Howard. However, there may still be time for President Bush to extend the hand of friendship to Mr. Howard, and that may help bring in more support. If he doesn’t, as he goes to greet Tony Blair he’ll find a dour Scot standing in the way, and that is the way it will stay, for Mr. Brown will have a very different view of the United States and the current foreign policy. He is also ideologically closer to otherEuropean leaders.

These concerns should inspire Republican warmth towards their natural allies in England, and perhaps they can offer some new ideas to the old country. Recently Karl Rove met with Liam Fox, the Conservative co-chairman, which is encouraging. Now is certainly a good time for the Republican Party to send a political food parcel to the British Conservative Party, even if it is not the party of the Thatcher-Reagan heydays.

For their part, the Conservatives need to tap into traditional values and combat the “Europeanization” of Britain. It has been joked that historically Britain either stays out of things European to see if the continentals mess them up, or join in to make sure that they do. It seems that Britain no longer has that luxury. Britain’s natural ally is the United States of America, not the United States of Europe.

David Cowan is a member of the Board of Advisors of Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford.

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