Tuesday, May 10, 2005
The Atlantic Turn

Whilst Michael Howard is not welcomed in the White House, following his willingness to criticise the Bush administration, the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle has strengthened the Atlanticist tendency in the Conservative Party. Liam Fox, the new Foreign Secretary, has made a speech entitled "Let Freedom Prevail", which the BBC misunderstood and interpreted as a call for 'modernisation'. The initial paradigm emanating from the Tories is a familiar refrain that the Tories must seek to understand modern Britain. Fox's own metaphor for reinvigorating the brand was swapping Eastenders for the Archers. The Archers is quite emblematic of British mores these days with its moral decline but why Fox should wish to hitch the story of a sinking soap to the BBC's flagship programme surprises me, unless it is a desperate bid to acquire a higher profile on the ten o'clock news.

Joking apart, Fox's speech was a conscious effort to capture the 'modernisation agenda' by evoking the theme of freedom, linking social and economic liberalism, in a package that may attract Thatcherites, Eurosceptics and the softer sofas of the 'me-too' Blairites:

Dr Fox says the first test the Conservatives must apply to every proposal is whether it increases or decreases the size of the state.

Government should be an "enabling framework", not an "entrapping web", he argues.

He underlines the importance of freedom coupled with encouraging personal responsibility, albeit with a "safety net" for the genuinely needy.

He concludes: "Freedom is not a slogan. Freedom is not just a means to an end. Freedom is our essence. Freedom is our core. Let freedom reign."

As an article by Fraser Nelson over at Atlantic Bridge demonstrates, Liam Fox and George Osbourne have cultivated links with the Republicans to stand alongside more established figures such as the underrated Iain Duncan Smith. Both have attempted to rekindle the marriage between the Republicans and the Tories, with little success. To reward his loyalty, Bush has stood foursquare behind Blair, even though the Prime Minister's fortunes appear limited.

This may certain consequences in the post-Blair environment. If Gordon Brown becomes Prime Minister, his links are tied to the Democratic party and it is unclear if he would be able to establish a similar rapport with Bush . The Republicans may view the Tories as an irrelevance, given that they are unable to attain power and bring little of note to the conservative movement. Through ideological drift, institutional neglect, misplaced loyalties and a recognition of Britain's increasing impotence, the roots of the Atlantic Alliance may wither on the vine.


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