A new accord is born

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair and Bill Clinton opened up a new phase of buddy politics yesterday with a rose garden press conference in which they both declared the death of the old ideologies.

The two leaders agreed during a morning of talks at No10 they would pool ideas and drive for an international programme of job-generation, and there was hard-thinking and determination to push the peace process in Northern Ireland.

But the most remarkable accord, with identical views echoed, was on the new politics of a new generation of world leaders.

The Prime Minister told reporters in the No10 garden: "This is the generation that prefers reason to doctrine, that is strong on ideals, indifferent to ideology, whose instinct is to judge government not by grand designs but by practical results."

The President said that government had to reconcile the demands of economic growth with the demands of family, neighbourhood and community. "I don't think it's the end of ideology, but I think it's the end of yesterday's ideology.

"The more people see the issues framed in terms of attacks of parties on each other in yesterday's language, that seems disconnected to their own concerns, hopes and problems, the more faith is lost in politics."

Earlier, in exchanges with the new Cabinet, Mr Clinton recited familiar phraseology from new Labour's manifesto - "for the many not the few, the future not the past, leadership not drift" - and was rewarded with one of Labour's election pledge cards by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

While the day's events delivered little sign of action, the words were strongest on Northern Ireland, with President Clinton urging the IRA to call an unconditional ceasefire, and get into inclusive talks.

"You can't say, 'We'll talk and shoot. We'll talk when we're happy and shoot when we're not'. Every political process in the world is a struggle for principled compromise, which means, when it's over, no-one is 100 per cent happy."

He said the people of Northern Ireland no longer wanted to be led down the destructive path. "We talk about changing economic policy," he said. "A far greater tragedy is to move into the wonders of the 21st century with the shackles of what can only be characterised as almost primitive hatred of people because they are of different religions than you are."

Mr Blair, who spoke of the "great burning frustration" of Northern Ireland's problems, said it was possible to move the peace process forward. "But it's got to be done with care and I'm sure as they played a helpful role before, the US will play a helpful role again."

The two men also agreed that there would be much more concerted international efforts to share experience on jobs and employment, with next month's Denver meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations being followed up in January with a British meeting of G8, and heads of government meeting, in a year's time, in Birmingham.

Mr Clinton, who said that a stable monetary system was one of the keys to successful job creation, went out of his way to praise Mr Blair's decision to hand the Bank of England operational control over interest rates.

As for the evident bond that has been formed between the two men, Mr Clinton said repeatedly during the day that he wished he had a 179-vote majority, and he added later that for all their similarities, Mr Blair was seven years younger and had no white hair.

Asked what advice he had to offer Mr Blair, the President said: "Relaxing concentration is fatal in this business."

Nevertheless, he admitted that what he had most looked forward to seeing was "the unique and unspeakably beautiful British spring".