THE PRIME MINISTER AT BLACKPOOL
British press verdicts on Tony Blair's annual address
to the Labour Party Conference
MR BLAIR succeeded in fleshing out a new politics of values and in convincing his party that these were the same as those of the country. For the first time he seemed at peace with his party. The combination of leader and party in comparative harmony, coupled with an understanding of the requirements of government, is formidable indeed.
MR BLAIR has an unassailable Commons majority and a still massive fund of public goodwill. Few prime ministers in modern times can have been better placed to trust the people with the truth and steady their nerves for trials ahead. Commendably, Mr Blair did indeed alert his party to the demanding task of making our society a safer and more stable place in which to live. Even so, history may judge that he displayed a touch too much political charm before the economic storm.
AFTER THE famine of the Tories' later years, Blair is delivering the feast we voted for - education, health, crime, Lottery cash to fight cancer, welfare reform, the family, a closer alliance with America. It was all straight from The Sun's menu.
THE PRIME Minister demonstrated the vision, the skill and opportunity that he has long promised. He confirmed not merely that he is a league above the rest of his party but also that he has the potential to become the truly national and international leader for whom we have all been waiting.
MR BLAIR did warn the delegates that the country was about to enter a difficult period, and he is probably right. But we still do not have the least idea as to how he will cope, nor, one suspects, does he. The backbone rhetoric was not just designed to impress his party; Mr Blair was also trying to reassure himself that if he can talk tough, he can act tough. We shall see. Anyone listening to Mr Blair might assume that his enemies are all in the past, and his hopes in the future. That may turn out to be the exact opposite of the truth. It may be that Mr Blair's real enemies are in the future. (Bruce Anderson)
ON THE economy and aspects of social policy, New Labour remains wedded to a Right-wing consensus which is past its sell-by date. Mr Blair gives every impression of falling into the Thatcherite trap of arguing that "there is no alternative". Since the vast majority of Labour Party members joined because they fervently believed that there can be an alternative, we must hope that the leadership begins to listen to them.
The Daily Telegraph
BLAIR WARNED of problems ahead: on Scotland, the House of Lords and with the economy. What remains unclear is whether Mr Blair understands not just how these issues are likely to cause trouble, but why. Unless he does, he will not know what to do when things go wrong. He means to imitate Mrs Thatcher, but could end up imitating her successor.
MR BLAIR turned on his usual dazzling display of style, but the ringing phrases about meeting the challenges ring rather hollow. He seemed content to get his applause from a recital of the Government's achievements, while his promises for the future sounded impressive but lacked detail, wherein the devil will undoubtedly lie.
The Northern Echo
ALL THE movements of Mr Blair's speech were littered with challenges - challenges to the police, to unions, to newspapers, to Tories. The biggest and most important challenge lies with Mr Blair himself, because talking tough and hitting hard from a conference platform sounds suspiciously like shifting the blame when the real people are really suffering. (Chris Lloyd)
BLAIR IS much the most powerful prime minister since the war. He is not worn down by the manoeuvrings of rivals in the Cabinet because he has no rivals. The first term looks like avoiding any hazardous diversions. The second term, in contrast, already promises to be a roller-coaster. Unless awkward decisions are delayed until a more distant and mythical land called "Third Term" has been reached. (Steve Richards)
THE GERMAN ELECTIONS
Comment about the victory of Gerhard Schroder's
Social Democrats over Helmut Kohl
FOR THE first time, voters have taken the bull firmly by the horns and opted for what must usually take place in a democracy: change. A surprisingly large number of Germans have cast aside their usual caution and opted for the new and unknown. For a country that, because of bitter experience, values the stable continuity of the status quo more than anything else, it's more than remarkable. It borders on a revolution.
The Straits Times
CRAVING CHANGE after 16 years of staid conservatism, Germany has, for the first time, elected a chancellor who does not carry the baggage of World War II. However, as he steps into the shadows of retirement, Chancellor Kohl, the West's longest-serving leader and the first incumbent chancellor of modern Germany to be unseated, can look back proudly on his 16 years at the helm of Europe's most powerful nation.
THE VOTERS have abandoned Kohl and the Union because they couldn't recognise their "people's" party in the socio-political laws and undertakings of this government. This applied especially to voters in the East. The openness of the voters towards reform is limited to those areas where only small, or no, sacrifices are necessary. The FDP misjudged this, and is now paying for its wrong assessment. Kohl and Waigel didn't stand a chance with their level-headed calculations against a challenger who made vague promises of stability and affluence.
SCHRODER COMMITTED himself to a healthy economy and social equality. With globalisation, however, the industrial strength of rich nations faces fierce competition from developing nations with cheaper labour. How can a robust economy coexist with an equitable society in such an international climate? We will be watching with interest to see whether the new chancellor will be able to answer that question .
KOHL SPOKE of a dynamism, but wasn't able to convey it. He spoke of an atmosphere of renewal, but went about spreading the opposite. The voters were more keen for a change than anyone might have expected. It was a courageous election. If one adds up the votes cast for left-of-centre parties, the swing that becomes apparent is greater than that of the legendary Will Brandt election. The results signal more than a little shift. Change is upon us.
FOR THE first time in Germany's post-war history there will be a power transition in Bonn by way of a government changed by the German voters. After the victory of Gerhard Schroder and the SPD, now the only right- of-centre large country in the EU is Spain. A chance for a more social and humane Europe. Europe, a little redder, a little newer, looks to the future with Gerhard Schroder.
SCHRODER HAS promised a generational change in leadership. But few believe that there will be any dramatic change in the German economic and foreign policy scene. He has worked hard to project his party's image as a non- ideological one, and move it away from the left. It has undergone the metamorphosis that the Labour Party did in Britain under Tony Blair, to win the elections after being in political wilderness for many years.
Views about whether Nato should launch air strikes against the Serbs to end the killing of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo
THE SERBS pursued ethnic cleansing while the world procrastinated, hiding under the guise of seeking an international consensus on the issue. Tragically for the hapless victims, the genocide has not abated, despite the achievement of that consensus. The killings are continuing while the world and, in particular, Nato, watches in apparent neutered stance. In the meantime, the propagators of the genocide and ethnic hegemony are pursuing their hate agenda with haste. Does Nato have the courage to stop the Kosovo slaughter? The jury is still out on this one. Nato members must stop dithering, and act.
THOSE DIPLOMATS discouraged by the difficulty they have in disentangling the truth from the lies now claim that both parties have blood on their hands; if the world is going to refuse Kosovo independence, it must accord Milosevic the power of enforcement over his territory. Currently at the centre of the situation, the Deliaj family isn't going to be the spilling of blood which eventually tips the conscience of the world. This family is merely another addition to the terrible toll of the conflict.
The Washington Post
THE UNITED States and its allies cannot deceive themselves into thinking that a single military strike would be, somehow, a solution to the problem. Kosovan autonomy, if it were ever a solution, is probably no longer practical. Some of us who were slow to grasp the dimensions of the crime perpetrated by Serbia in Bosnia are now itching to rectify that mistake by urging the United States to hit Milosevic hard over Kosovo. But everyone involved ought to understand that one air strike is not going to solve the Kosovo problem. Only independence will.
PART OF the reason for sabre-rattling is the collective guilt felt by Western powers, who followed the United Nations' ineffectual bids to halt the slaughter in Bosnia, and rode to the rescue only after the wagon train had been wiped out. The harsh truth of the matter is that it would take several more weeks, even if the collective political will existed, to begin an air campaign against Serbia. By that time, the snows will have started in earnest in the mountains of Kosovo, and the outcome will be a moot point for the displaced. Theirs is a no-win situation.
Opinions on the publication of a new series
of prefaces to the books of the Bible
FOR CENTURIES the interpretation of Christian scripture was a site of dispute, conflict and outright violence. The new "Pocket Canons" are no exception. One Christian bookseller has resigned, and a solicitor is threatening to sue for blasphemy. Such objections spring from a fundamentalist approach towards holy texts - fundamentalist in the sense of seeking to limit the readers' responses to a set of doctrinally prescribed readings - which runs against the grain of modern critical theory, and even of much modern theology.
CANONGATE CAN'T but be pleased with the publicity, and deny blasphemy. They say they chose the writers according to their degree of passionate response. I do not find anything that could be thought blasphemous in the Canongate Canons, and all of it, I'd say, has been printed or said before. The survival of texts, of books "that will have no end", is as mysterious as Revelation. One wonders which, if any, contemporary texts will be thought too sacred for comment, or command such passionate response, in another 2,000 years. (Jane Gardam)
"WHAT A scam!" was the reaction of one publisher when he heard that a firm was re-issuing the books of the Bible in paperback and selling them for pounds 1 each, with introductions by well known writers. They may contain a theology which sounds occasionally bizarre, and even distasteful to a politically sensitive age; but there is a richness of language and a welter of provocative ideas that cut through the blandness that characterises so much worship today. Few publishing scams offer the quality of great literature. (Magnus Linklater)
Comment on former rugby star Will Carling's decision to leave
his girlfriend and baby son for a married woman
IN HIS autobiography Will Carling reveals that leaving his girlfriend, and 11-month-old son for another woman "is not an ideal situation... certainly not one of which I'm in the least bit proud". The gist of what Carling says is that he and Cockayne weren't compatible, and he has a right to seek happiness. So, apart from a not too extended moment of mea culpa (sufficient to increase sales for his testimonial), the man will press on with business as usual. (Yvonne Roberts)
CARLING THINKS the ideal woman is waiting for him, but perfection doesn't exist for any of us. The emotion one feels for Will Carling is pity. Totally selfish people are never happy for long. He's discarding a loving girl and an enchanting baby for a mirage that will never become reality. He'll always be dissatisfied. Perhaps one day he may even grow up enough to feel ashamed. (Lynda Lee Potter)
WILL CARLING declares that he has difficulties with girls. He reveals in his autobiography that it is because he does not know how to communicate... It seems the seed of his difficulties with girls was sown at his old school. Difficulties with girls is one thing. Blaming them on your old school is quite another.
CARLING IS described as too fly by half for blaming Julia for being bossy and Ali for lavishing too much affection on his son. He fully deserves the nickname whispered behind his back at university - old bumface. There, it was a reference to his chin: now we know it has a wider application. (Jenni Murray)
The US press on the devastation wreaked by the tropical storm
FOR THE Caribbean survivors, things will get worse before they get better. The storm left at least 100,000 Dominicans homeless - more than 10 times the number that government shelters can accommodate. They'd better rebuild fast. Three other hurricanes are swirling simultaneously in the Atlantic. Though they were not expected to reach land, they underscore one harrowing truth; the hurricane season still has two months to go.
Palm Beach Post
GEORGES'S WESTERLY route caused more damage in Cuba than expected and, because it kept the storm over land longer, helped South Florida. Fidel Castro declared before the storm hit that, because of the US economic embargo, Cuba would not accept storm aid from the States. That's just one more example of how US-Cuban relations have degenerated to the point of mutual lunacy. A hurricane's path is outside of human control. The response to a hurricane's devastation isn't. Those who were spared - this time - should help Georges's victims here and in the Caribbean. We were lucky. Now we can be generous.
St Petersburg Times
ALTHOUGH ITS direction is uncertain, this hurricane is serious business. Officials scrambled to put emergency procedures in place, and to debunk the ignorance among tourists and residents of how awesome and complete the destructive power of hurricanes can be. Georges is not an experience for thrill-seekers, or those who cannot persevere for days without the conveniences of modern living. Staying informed and prepared is a price we must pay to live on Florida's coast. The greatest danger we face is not Georges, but our own complacency.
Stories from around the world
CONGRESSMAN METCALF, a Republican with an unbroken record of voting against gay civil rights, probably assumed that launching a personal broadside against a lesbian challenger was a sure-fire fund-raising tactic. The ploy no doubt garnered Mr Metcalf some contributions. But, it also proved costly, generating widespread criticism of him. Now Mr Metcalf has had to agree to campaign as a gentleman. Thanks to progress made by his challenger and two other lesbian congressional candidates, 1998 looks like a breakthrough year.
Already the three women have erased doubts about the viability of lesbian congressional candidates. They've got what it takes to win.
THERE HAS been a growing sophistication in the resort to white-collar crime. The involvement of politicians and their henchmen hailing from the "socially backward" classes in mega scams running to thousands of millions of rupees has [led] many of the educated and upper-middle-class people to believe that it is, for the most part, the poorer classes which are bitten by the bug to get rich quick in total disregard for ethical values.
Such a perception gets even more flawed when the privileged classes try to rationalise it with the specious argument about the jettisoning of values governing probity and integrity in public life by these classes brought about by their belief that these are values imposed upon the downtrodden by the expropriatory bourgeoisie.
The Copenhagen Post
THE BOARD of Health's annual anti-drinking campaign begins this week. Experts hope the campaign will encourage Danes to reduce their high intake of alcohol.
The Minister for Health believes there is a strong link between the steady rise in the amount of alcohol consumed here and the increase in deaths in the 45-64 age group. Life expectancy in this age group is far lower here than in any other Scandinavian countries.Reuse content