The importance of the Special Relationship with America has always rightly been the cornerstone of British foreign policy – with the short exception of the Heath premiership - which explains why Tony Blair found it so easy in January 2001 to move so swiftly from supporting Bill Clinton to being such best friends with the most rightwing Republican president since Herbert Hoover.
This fact presents a serious challenge to too many Conservatives in Britain, who ostrich-like, are not prepared to confront. The problem is their inexplicable attachment to a party that has produced the viciousness of Tom Delay, the hypocrisy of Mark Foley and David Vitter and the economic policies of George W Bush which have turned the budget surplus of Bill Clinton into a massive deficit due to tax cuts for the rich and greatly increased public spending. To add insult to injury, they find the nauseating mantra of the neo-cons attractive.
On the 20th January 2009 this will all change because due to the ineptitude of George W Bush in both his management of the American economy and the war in Iraq, the smart money is on a Democrat entering the White House. Barring an implosion of massive proportions that Democrat will be Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.
This scenario provides a golden opportunity for the Conservative party to mend fences and ensure that under a Cameron Conservative Government the special relationship could continue to flourish with a Democrat administration in Washington. As Freddie Sayers has recently written in the Spectator, all David Cameron has to do is ‘to go to Washington, meet Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats as well as George Bush, and issue a short statement: Due to the importance of maintaining the special relationship whichever parties are in power, the Conservative Party will not pick sides or have partisan arrangements with any particular political party in the US.’
This would hopefully help to undo the damage of the alleged interference by the Conservative Government in Bill Clinton’s election campaign in 1992 and show that the Conservative Party under David Cameron is more mainstream and prepared to work with a Democratic Administration – which can only be good for our national interest.
As they say in the US, it’s a slam dunk.
This sensible approach to protecting the special relationship will raise hackles with some traditional Conservatives, especially the concept of smoozying up to Hillary Clinton. Sadly the reaction will be based on ignorance. It will be influenced by the pernicious drip drip drip effect of what has been a right wing conspiracy against both Clintons and a lack of understanding of what makes Hillary tick.
As the Conservative Party moves to its traditional centre-right position in the political spectrum, it will find that Hillary is in many ways a New Tory. She, like the Tories, believes in free health care for all. She believes in equal pay, for a coherent policy on childcare, improving state education and even her criticism of the Iraq policy is not far from what many Conservatives believe.
To ignore Hillary Clinton in the hope that she will go away and cling to a dubious prejudice of supporting a discredited Republican Party which is on the electoral skids would be the height of folly for the Conservative Party.
The sooner we recognise the fact that Hillary is ‘In it to win it’ the better because the odds are she will win it and it is crucial for our national interest that that we are able to work positively with her.