Blair confronts his critics over special relationship with US

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Tony Blair will tonight make a provocative defence of his close relationship with President George Bush as he calls for international terrorism to be defeated by spreading democracy.

Tony Blair will tonight make a provocative defence of his close relationship with President George Bush as he calls for international terrorism to be defeated by spreading democracy.

The Prime Minister will risk aggravating Labour opponents of the Iraq war by setting out the benefits to Britain of its ties with the United States. He will say the two nations have shared values and that America has acted as a "special friend" to Britain for decades.

Three days after talks with Mr Bush in Washington, the Prime Minister's implicit message to his Labour critics will be to put aside their antipathy to a Republican President to and accept his re-election. Mr Bush may visit London during a planned visit to Europe after his inauguration on 20 January.

Downing Street insisted yesterday there were no "confirmed plans" for a stop in this country, but it is inconceivable that Mr Bush would not include Britain in his itinerary. His arrival shortly before the start of the expected election campaign could be uncomfortable for Labour strategists, who fear that voters are alienated by reminders of the President's closeness to Mr Blair.

But a Downing Street aide said last night: "Britain and America have a long working relationship which it is right to sustain. People should not allow any personal sentiments about individuals to cloud it."

In his annual Mansion House speech in London, the Prime Minister will urge Europe and the United States to put differences over Iraq behind them and work together to tackle issues such as peace in the Middle East. He will say the rebuilding of alliances fractured over the past two years will not only benefit the US and Europe, but also the world.

Mr Blair, who believes successful elections in Iraq in January could reduce criticism of the war, will echo the US President by saying the spread of democracy is the key to defeating terrorism. But opponents may see that as a first step towards accepting the controversial philosophy of pre-emption, taking war to terrorists before they attack.

Mr Blair said on the US channel NBC yesterday: "Where would we be as Britain or as Europe if America disengaged from the world and said, 'You guys go and sort out all the problems in the world'? I think we get an enormous amount out of this relationship because we believe in the same things, we share the same interests."

He said the US was vital in the intervention in the Balkans and the eventual downfall of Slobodan Milosevic. He said: "Without America we couldn't have sorted it out."

He told NBC's Meet the Press: "When people say, 'Where is your payback from this relationship?' my answer is that my payback is the relationship. It is an important relationship for Britain, and America."

¿ David Blunkett warned yesterday that al-Qa'ida is "on our doorstep and threatening our lives", with imminent court cases about to reveal the full threat to Britain from international terror. The Home Secretary insisted he was not trying to frighten people "to death", adding: "People don't want to have us with good systems of picking up their bodies. They want us to have very good systems of protecting their lives."

Comments