The United States

May 1, 1998

Tony Blair's government is one year old today. What challenges lie ahead, what has it achieved so far and, if Labour celebrates ten years in power, how will Britain look in 2007? The experts give their verdicts.

Tony Blair has not made the splash in the US that he has in continental Europe. In Europe, as a centre-left leader who wins overwhelmingly, he appeals to socialists who feel on the retreat ideologically even when they squeak in electorally. Blair is a welcome face and message compared not only with Kohl and Chirac but also compared with leaders who seem exhausted even when they win (Prodi and Jospin). But by these very same standards, Blair is bound to mean less to Americans: they already have opportunistic centre-left leaders who do whatever is necessary to win. Blair is a Clinton with fewer distinguishing characteristics.

This means that, unlike in Europe, where Blair's stock can almost only go down in the life of this parliament and the next, in America it could go up. The risk, though, is that Blair may end up disappointing both Labour moderates and admiring American "new'' Democrats by being most closely associated with policies that are aggressively free-market: rigorous welfare reform and labour market flexibilisation. If Blair turns out to be a Thatcher with even funnier hair, only conservatives will be laughing.

Gerard Alexander is assistant professor of government at the University of Virginia.

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