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Friends Or Foes

You may have seen our new Prime Minister Gordon Brown on your television screens this week when he met President Bush at Camp David. He was the dark haired dour one who kept referring to his host as 'Mr.President'. Your leader was the one who smiled a lot and called him 'Gordon'.

Each played the television audience for his own purposes. The President clearly wanted to show that his new buddy Gordon was just as much of a buddy as his old buddy Tony.

Mr. Brown wanted to show that he is a new man with a new way of doing business with our closest ally. And he achieved his aim with gestures -- or rather the lack of them.

Simply, the two just did not look like friends. That was the plan. But scratch the surface and you'll actually find that British policy towards America is basically unchanged. In fact, soon after taking office, Mr. Brown announced that the US would be allowed to base part of a new missile defense system in England -- one of Mr. Bush's pet projects.

That was a very friendly gesture, but no such sign of friendship was allowed in public. Friendship with George W. Bush does not play well with the British voters. It is all part of a remarkable political game being played by Mr. Brown.

For ten years he was at Tony Blair's side, in charge of the nation's finances, an integral part of every policy . He also voted for Iraq. So he is as much a part of the last ten years as Mr. Blair.

And yet within a few weeks of taking the helm, he has completely transformed his party's election prospects. Under Tony Blair, the Labor Party looked in real trouble. But Mr. Brown has managed to create the impression that he is a serious politician with new ideas and drive.

A wave of fresh policies and initiatives has emerged from Downing Street -- some policies have been dropped, as indeed have some old friends (one called Mr. President).

Suddenly the polls are saying that if Gordon Brown chose to hold an election now he would win, and win well. And now Mr. Brown's temptation will be to cash in on this new found popularity, to call an early election in the fall, and seek five more years in his own right.

Will he take the risk? The smart money says no. But already, he has illustrated that when he does go to the electorate, he will not be an easy man to defeat.
By Peter Allen

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