5 of UK's 10 most powerful are Yankees Old order is out in list of top 300 movers, shakers

November 02, 1998|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- Five of the 10 most powerful people in Britain are Americans.

At least that's the verdict announced yesterday by the Observer newspaper in its list of Britain's new establishment -- the 300 movers and shakers who wield power in this nation.

While British Prime Minister Tony Blair tops the list, coming in at No. 2 is Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born American whose worldwide media empire includes a string of influential British newspapers and television outlets. No. 3 is Microsoft's Bill Gates, judged the "ultimate business role model" for a government "obsessed with modernity and the information age."

Other Americans in the top 10 are President Clinton (7), a key player in the Northern Ireland peace process and a role model for Labor's return to power; General Electric's Jack Welch (9), a top management thinker; and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (10), whose pronouncements move stock markets worldwide.

The Observer wrote that "a new elite has sprung up to replace the old Establishment -- with foreign businessmen, celebrities, spin doctors and invisible international fund managers" controlling more of Britons' lives than those representing the old pillars of government, church and aristocracy.

An eight-member panel, led by longtime Labor politician Roy Hattersley, made the selections after six months of research with Britain's Channel 4.

The list is trendy and top-heavy with media people. But it speaks of a Britain increasingly concerned with style and its place in an increasingly interconnected world. It also shows that as Parliament has become less relevant in the daily lives of Britons, those in the arts, sports and fashion have made an impact.

Most of all the list seeks to show that the old order is out. Queen Elizabeth II is ranked 30th, while Prince Charles is 55th. Pope John Paul II (90) is judged more powerful than Dr. George Carey, the archbishop of Canterbury (186).

"The Queen just made it to number 30 because, although stripped of her constitutional power, she remains influential with Ministers and a role model for many of her older subjects," Hattersley wrote.

The list is sure to stoke controversy. As the itself newspaper noted, "It still helps to be white, male, middle-aged and Oxbridge-educated." Forty-three of the most powerful attended Cambridge, while 41 attended Oxford.

Others in the top 10 include Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson (4), Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (5), Bank of England Governor Eddie George (6) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (8).

Only seven women made the top 100. The most powerful is Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam (28).

The country's most powerful pop star is Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher (49), well ahead of old-timers Elton John (125), Mick Jagger (139) and Paul McCartney (190).

The list includes a few curve balls. Coming in at No. 116 is Curtis Warren, a jailed drug baron who it's claimed influenced a new breed of criminals.

And coming in at No. 23 is Alastair Campbell, press secretary to Blair. Only in modern Britain, it seems, can a press spokesman wield more power than a monarch.

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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