Monday, October 04, 2004
Howard or Howard?
Michael Howard may be looking enviously over at Australia where his namesake is leading a right wing party that is actually in government. However ignore the name and the tenor of the party and look at John Howard's similarities with Blair.
They are both long standing premiers with fairly succesful (if not exactly robust) economies and are both taking flak for their support for the American invasion of Iraq. The difference is that Howard looks like being in trouble electorally.
Now this should not be the case. The economy is doing fairly well, the Labor party are hardly inspiring confidence being led by a half-gelded nobody with no record in national government and no discernable talents apart from foul-mouthing.
However this potty mouth has been directed at Howard's relationship with the US. And very effectively. Where this election should be a walkover for Howard it is now neck and neck. This is even more surprising when one remembers that Australia is in fact far more pro-American than the UK as the entrepreneurial culture, large empty spaces and greater interest in religion make a fairly compatible culture. After all Australian troops went to Vietnam, unlike British troops. And Australia, with big bad Indonesia on its doorstep, has a more genuine worry about Islamic expansionism than we (or for that matter the United States) do.
I personally think that (John) Howard will get through, but even if he does a narrow margin will be another indication (after Germany and Spain) that anti-Americanism can be a very effective vote winner for otherwise hopeless parties. School vouchers and raising inheritance tax thresholds haven't got the same track record. The Conservative party know this, the only question is do they really want to be in government next year?
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