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Jewish World Review June 6, 2001/ 16 Sivan 5761

Wesley Pruden

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The race of kings, sprouts for Brussels -- WILLIAM HAGUE and the Conservatives, loathe like all English politicians to make a constituent throw his hat in the air, are looking to faraway Australia for a little solace.

They might as well. There seems to be nothing left for them in Old Blighty.

All public-opinion polls point — scream, actually — to similar results, a landslide on the day after tomorrow for Tony Blair and what he calls the "New Labor Party." The most dramatic poll, taken for the Daily Telegraph, shows Labor up by 23 points. Nobody has seen anything like this since Maggie Thatcher won by a mile in 1987. Such a result would produce a Labor majority in the Parliament of 253 seats, up by 25.

Tony Blair is no Maggie Thatcher, of course, and in present-day Britain itīs a good thing for Labor that he isnīt. Heīs a man for his time and place, all sauce and not much pepperoni, Bill Clinton without the testosterone, a pretty face with a mouthful of Jimmy Carterīs teeth. William Hague, the Tory leader, is — to reach for one last American comparison — Bob Dole without hair. Smart, sharp of tongue, and determined, like his party, not to get anyone excited.

Since they have no Harry Truman (the patron saint of election-eve losers in America) on whom to call in their moment of impending doom, the Tories are reduced to wistful invocations of "the Queensland effect," seeking to replicate the victory won by a defeated opposition party in the Australian state of Queensland several years ago when it conceded that it was whipped and asked voters only to limit the size of the governmentīs landslide. So many voters did that the whipped opposition actually won.

Thatīs a remote prospect this week in Britain, but yesterday Mr. Blair and his men seemed rattled by fears of a Queensland effect building in certain British precincts. The archbishop of York told his cathedral flock on Sunday to beware of a landslide because "a real democracy needs healthy opposition." The deputy leader of a former Labor government sounded a similar warning, lest Mr. Blair "be free to do what he chooses."

Nobody quite knows what that would be. Mr. Blair wants only to talk about improving the services of the welfare state, and in particular saving a national health service that may not be worth saving. In return for paying taxes that would make a New Yorker wince, the Brits get medical care as good as any in Islamabad.

What he doesnīt want to talk about is Europe, and whether, as both friends and foes suspect, he intends to abandon the pound for the sinking euro as a prelude to making Britain a department of France or a province of the Fourth Reich. Only last week the president of the European Commission demanded draconian economic powers for the Brussels bureaucrats. Taxes and spending must be "harmonized," so that, for example, a Briton wouldnīt pay less in taxes than a Spaniard or a Belgian. Lionel Jospin, the prime minister of France, demands to go farther: He wants a "harmonization" of criminal law and a European criminal prosecutor in a socialist superstate. This would say goodbye to due process in the land that invented trial by jury and innocent until proven guilty. You might think the very idea would send Englishmen boiling into the streets, and maybe it would if the politicians were not conspiring to keep everyone asleep.

Tony Blair tried to head off such seditious talk in Europe until after his re-election, but there was no shutting up the Brussels spouts. In the event it seems not to have made any difference. For this the prime minister can thank the Tories. Mr. Hague thinks he set the woods on fire with a speech promising to keep the pound "through the life of the next Parliament." That wasnīt good enough for Mrs. Thatcher, Lady Thatcher to the Brits but still the manliest pol in the kingdom. "New Labor in its shrivelled heart," she says, is embarrassed by Britainīs glorious history and wants to dissolve British sovereignty "by stealth." With true grit, she vows not to give up the pound for the euro, not just in the next Parliament but "never!"

A country that gives up the power to issue its own currency, she says, "is a country which has given up the power to govern itself." Mr. Blair challenged William Hague to disown Mrs. Thatcherīs remarks, curious because polls show that upwards of 70 percent of Britons want no truck with the pathetic European currency.

But the sceptrīd isle is not what it used to be. Shakespeareīs race of kings is looking now for handouts, the legacy of a half-century of a welfare state that pulled the lionīs teeth. Nobody has gauged this better than Tony Blair. He may not get his landslide, but heīs not likely to give up his role as master of the slide into irrelevance.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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