Breaking the habit of a lifetime I don’t want to bore on again about why I think presidential libraries like the George W Bush Library inaugurated by President Obama in Dallas, Texas, yesterday are a great idea (see p17). Instead, it is worth dwelling on the mutual respect presidents and ex-presidents have for each other, and contrast that with the apparent fear and mutual loathing that British prime ministers display towards each other and leaders of the opposition.
Presidents Bush Snr, Clinton and Carter were present to witness President Obama say of Dubya yesterday “to know the man is to like him”, which is about as different to what David Cameron might say of Gordon Brown as one could imagine. The same can be said even of members of the same side: Brown on Tony Blair, Thatcher on Major, Thatcher on Heath.
There’s the obvious dislike Thatcher showed for Foot and Kinnock, or between Brown and the PM, whatever the public niceties. Not so Blair, who appeared to hate his own party’s left wing more than he did messrs Hague, Duncan Smith and Howard.
Is loathing a bad thing? Of your own party perhaps, but of opponents? Would a little loathing be better than the Pinky and Perky double act of David Cameron and Nick Clegg? And there’s not really that much of a fag packet to put between Cameron and Ed Miliband. No more Heath v Wilson. However, the flipside of presidential mutual respect is the reality of a super-elite, moneyed old boys’ club. So much so that Dubya is able to call one of those former presidents “dad”.