Blair and Jospin play footie

Chris Burford cburford at
Tue Jul 28 23:55:19 PDT 1998

At 09:17 AM 7/27/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Re Chris Burford's post, "Blair and Jospin play footie": This post is
>too subtle for me. I do not, for instance, understand what is meant by
>this statement: "A year on, it appears that Blair has both wanted to
>exercise, and had some success in exercising, his Francophile
>tendencies." Is this supposed to mean that Blair simply wants to be
>more influential in French affairs, or that he is a closet, "more
>traditional" socialist like Jospin? From several thousand miles away,
>Blair still looks like an unreconstructed centrist hack to me.

Thanks for challenging me about my obscure language. I was referring to the geometry between the most influential states of western Europe. The European project has really run on a conscious Franco-German axis since the first post war iron and steel confederation (I have forgotten the title). The love-hate relationship between England and France stretches over a thousand years, and has deep ambivalences. Blair presumably genuinely loves French culture since he has taken the trouble to learn the language and likes to show it off, so it is very important if he can manage the personal chemistry with Jospin. Cook in an unguarded moment in 1997 said that the British government wanted to create a triangle of Britain, France and Germany. Blair looks as if he is pulling it off.

Not so incidentally, the British government reshuffle in the last couple of days, has gone off mainly with headlines about greater co-ordination between departments and overcoming rivalry, but the most important policy consequence under the surface is that Mandelson has been appointed to head trade and industry. This means that the two main economic departments, with his personal rival Brown at the exchequer, are headed by strong Europhiles. On the second wave of junior appointments, Blair also slipped in a minister for Europe, who is even more enthusiastic, and will presumably start promoting the cause more publically. Brown's act of homage in attending a seminar at the Murdoch corporation in Idaho recently, may have neutralised to some extent the opposition from this quarter in the media, while they concentrate on their family relationships.

The Financial Times will have little reason to be critical, I suspect.

Chris Burford


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