Leading article: Don't mention the war

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The Independent Online

If old generals like nothing better than to refight old battles, William Hague must be in clover. Fresh from returning to Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons yesterday, he flew straight to Washington to meet members of the Bush administration and restore links with the Republican Party.

If the mission of David Cameron's New Tories has been to banish the Thatcherite ghosts, Hague's mission is to bury more recent history: namely, the legacy of Michael Howard's split with the Republican administration over his partial recantation of support for the war. The attempt prompted an immediate reply from President Bush's political amanuensis, Karl Rove, left on Howard's answering machine. If you're thinking of visiting us in Washington, went the message, then don't bother. Full stop.

This time Mr Hague and his team of Liam Fox, Shadow Defence Secretary, and George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor, will get the full works, meeting not just Karl Rove, but Senator John McCain and even, so we're told, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Old hurts never last long in politics, especially when the two parties need all the support they can get.

It's all a bit futile, of course, considering President Bush will have long since retired when the Tories next get a shot at power. It's also a bit tendentious considering the desire of the Tories to colonise the centre ground, partially on the back of a mantra which says: "Don't mention the war". But anything is possible for the new thrusting Conservative Party of David Cameron, and there are no tunes like the old ones. "Battle Hymn of the Republic" anyone, or should that be "Dixie"?