British politician to visit U.S. with a blast from home Labor Party leader accused of 'un-American activities'

April 08, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- This week, Tony Blair goes to America.

The visit of the leader of Britain's opposition Labor Party would normally be something of a lap of honor, as he meets with business leaders and gets a White House greeting from President Clinton.

Instead, Mr. Blair may find himself dealing with what appear to be flimsy allegations of "un-American activities."

According to a report in yesterday's Sunday Express, the ruling Conservative Party has sent a pamphlet titled "Tony Blair's Un-American Activities" to Republican supporters in the United States. The pamphlet calls Mr. Blair and his wife, Cherie, "anti-nuclear and anti-American."

The Conservatives, who don't deny they put together the briefing paper, say they're just trying to set the record straight on Mr. Blair. Labor calls the tactic a "smear" and a "dirty trick."

According to the Sunday Express, the Conservative document says Mr. Blair campaigned for Parliament in 1983 on an anti-nuclear platform. The document also says that Mr. Blair supported criticism of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for backing U.S. bombing against Libya in 1986.

The document says "Tony Blair criticized the USA's 'evil campaign' against Nicaragua and 'President Reagan's state-sponsored terrorism' in Central America." It says that five members of Mr. Blair's current shadow Cabinet indulged in "un-American activities" by opposing Britain's entry into the 1991 Persian Gulf war, according to the Sunday Express.

Trans-Atlantic electioneering is nothing new. The Conservatives usually identify with Republicans, while Labor is generally more comfortable with Democrats.

Struggling British prime ministers often have shown up at the White House for a photo opportunity and a poll boost. But the "special relationship" among American and British politicians took a nastier turn in 1992. Conservative Party aides scanned British government files to dig up dirt on Mr. Clinton during his presidential race against George Bush. The incident soured relations between Mr. Clinton and the current prime minister, John Major.

For more than a year, Mr. Blair has held an overwhelming lead FTC over Mr. Major in opinion polls. The Conservatives have tried to rattle the Labor leader in the past few months, but without success.

Mr. Blair has sought to modernize his party, trying to rip it from its socialist foundation. In his visit to the United States, which begins Wednesday, Mr. Blair is expected to spread his message for a "stakeholder" society, in which corporations and their employees share economic successes. The trip is also designed to enhance Mr. Blair's image as politician able to play on a world stage.

But Mr. Blair does have his problems at home.

In an article in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, Mr. Blair chided Conservatives on religious grounds. Modern British politicians usually steer clear of religious debate.

Mr. Blair, a devout Anglican, wrote: "My view of Christian values led me to oppose what I perceived to be a narrow view of self-interest that Conservatism -- particularly its modern, more right-wing form -- represents.

"Every human being is self-interested," he wrote. "But Tories, I think, have too selfish a definition of that self-interest. They fail to look beyond to the community and the individual's relationship with the community. That is the essential reason why I am on the left rather than on the right."

The Conservatives pounced on the article.

Michael Fabricant, a member of Parliament, said: "Tony Blair becomes more sanctimonious as the election approaches. He now not only sees himself as prime minister but as archbishop of Canterbury as well."

Pub Date: 4/08/96

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