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So what does the future hold for these two?

March 20, 2008

How should Brown and McCain ensure that the special relationship isn’t affected by party politics?

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Today John McCain and Gordon Brown met together and the press accounts seem to imply that it was meaningful, productive and positive. However, it does raise the question as to how McCain and Brown should play the calls from their respective parties to become involved in the politics of their respective countries. McCain is facing a lot of pressure from his own party to be more supportive of the Conservative party. At the same time the friendship between Tony Blair and the Clinton’s was well known. Brown has been anxious to meet Barack Obama, while McCain is going to meet with David Cameron later today. Clearly, my preference, as a longstanding member of the Labour party and someone who has money on McCain, would be for a repeat of 2004 with McCan delivering a few well times snubs to Cameron, but this is clearly unrealistic.

My view is that the best that both parties hope for is that both Brown and McCain stay neutral and that the gestures that they make towards Labour-Democrat and Republican-Conservative unity are so half-hearted that they are snubs. It was clearly inappropriate for Hillary Clinton to be invited to the Labour party conference in 2006 and it was also not very politic for McCain to speak to the Tories. However, the invitation to Hillary was eventually withdrawn and McCain delivered a rousing speech to the blue-rinsed brigade on … pork barrel spending. This was not quite the equivalent of Tony Blair lauding public support for faith schools to Democrats but a snub nonetheless. For his part, McCain has been savvy enough to rig it so that the press see him and Brown talking about the great foreign policy issues of the day, while he talks to Cameron about the things a pro-life war hero can learn from a flip-flopping huckster about public life.

Although there will be those who think that an experienced leader such as Brown should aim to become the ‘agent of change’ and that McCain can learn something from three sucessive election defeats, Brown and McCain both have a clear interest in keeping out of American and British politics. Indeed, the Conservative Party represents pretty much all the reasons why swing voters are moving away from the Democrats. In any case it is not in America’s interest to have someone who considers the special relationship ‘slavish’ in Downing Street.

Hopefully Obama and Cameron will make it easy for McCain and Brown to stay neutral with Obama continuing to bash Tony Blair and Britain while Cameron begs to jump on the Obama band-waggon, just as it is becoming obvious that its wheels are coming off. Even the talk on Conservative Home, the Conservative equivalent of Daily Kos, about a planeload of Conservative activists ‘helping’ McCain can easily be dealt with. Indeed, I hear that Alaska has awfully nice weather in the autumn.

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