George Osborne to meet George W Bush (and the Tory-GOP relationship)

Whitehousemeeting Tim Montgomerie, Editor of, writes:

Just a couple of weeks ago Gordon Brown and George W Bush held their first meeting.  A less substantial but still significant meeting will happen today when George Osborne, Britain’s Shadow Chancellor, meets the President at a White House event on malaria.  They are expected to hold short, private talks soon afterwards.  The Bush administration is particularly proud of its $1.2bn five-year malaria initiative for Africa’s hardest-hit nations.  George Osborne has also taken a personal interest in the issue.  Today he has appointed Professor Jeffrey Sachs as "a personal adviser on tackling the global scourge of malaria".

At a Hudson Institute event I addressed the issue of Tory-GOP relations during last week’s BritainAndAmerica visit to Washington.  Bullet-pointed below were my main observations:

  • There are a number of reasons why relations have deteriorated since Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership of the Conservative Party.  British Tories have not enjoyed watching the closeness of the Bush-Blair relationship and the ways in which the White House snubbed Michael Howard after his criticisms of the Iraq war.  David Cameron, never an enthusiast for the Iraq war, was at Michael Howard’s right hand when Karl Rove froze relations with the Tories and the Tories have felt little electoral incentive to repair relations with an administration that is both very unpopular in the UK and will have expired by the time David Cameron can have a realistic expectation of becoming Prime Minister.  On the Republican side there is disappointment at the ways in which the Tories have appeared to play politics on Iraq.  Great offence was taken at David Cameron’s decision to use the fifth anniversary of 9/11 to rebalance the Tory-GOP and UK-US relationship.  More deeply there is a sense in the Republican party that ‘a Europeanisation of the Conservative Party’ is underway with the Tories becoming more European in their policies on terror, Israel, the level of taxation and climate change.
  • What is not true is that there is a permanent anti-Americanism within the Conservative Party.  Although there are some isolationist and Powellite Tories who will never value close relations with the United States most Tories have a deep respect for America.  David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, William Hague and George Osborne are key figures in this respect.  David Cameron has also been proud that he brought John McCain to last year’s Party Conference (although there has been a falling out since) and that California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger will be addressing this year’s Blackpool gathering (another Osborne coup).  It is notable, however, that both McCain and Schwarzenegger are climate change campaigners.  Team Cameron want a relationship with the Republican Party but they want it to be more on their terms.  Good relations with the Republican field for 2008 are more important than the current White House.

What Sam Coates and I found in Washington, however, was a strong willingness within Republican circles to stop picking at old wounds and move to build better relations in future.  There was an acceptance that although the Conservative Party was no longer the party of Margaret Thatcher the Labour party would soon cease to be the party of Tony Blair.  Labour without Blair will be less friendly to the long-term interests of the United States than a Conservative Party with Davis, Hague and Osborne in its upper ranks.

Update: See next post for further information on Osborne’s trip

Next in this series of reflections from BritainAndAmerica’s week in Washington will be a post on ‘Hillary the hawk?’


12 Responses to George Osborne to meet George W Bush (and the Tory-GOP relationship)

  1. JF says:

    Well put, Tim. I do think it’s time to forgive and move on, but it will take efforts from both sides. I think the UK would be best served attacking the global warming debate from the energy independence angle, which resonates powerfully here in the US. That is, alternative energy sources will free the US from foreign oil, so let’s develop efficient green energy. All the harping about Kyoto is only going to cause resentment and pushback, not progress. I don’t believe in the global warming argument, but I do believe in national security, and I think you’ll find many Republicans would be favorable towards that argument.

    That said, the UK has a role to play in the rapprochement as well. Namely, what is the Conservative Party policy on defense spending?

  2. James Maskell says:

    The reason why Brown went to meet Bush was because he was to become Prime Minister. We are sending Boy George to meet the most powerful man on the planet at the moment. Why arent we sending Cameron, our Leader?

  3. Steevo says:

    Well put JF but I’m in full agreement only with slim hope. I do appreciate your efforts on this Tim.

    I see this as a spiritual problem of sorts with weak and self-serving human nature. The GW issue is only going to increase with all the elements for sensationalist concerns and save-the-world fervor. The vanguard will have easy approval and prestige making it a religion of intolerance to dissent, with a very willing agenda-driven Leftist media establishing the emotionalism and powerful moralist atmosphere. I fear this may become a ‘you’re with us or against us’ proposition.

    At this point in my life I just don’t have much hope with elected officials not firmly grounded in traditional values. A close relationship may be unrealistic and even intolerable considering the perceived moral and economic consequences if drastic measures are not soon undertaken. It may yet again end up a good and evil thing but there won’t be Bush and Blair to blame.

  4. Scotty says:

    “On the Republican side there is disappointment at the ways in which the Tories have appeared to play politics on Iraq.”
    I agreed with most of Tim’s summary but take exception to this comment for the sole reason that after the way that both Bush and Blair played politics in the run up to the Iraq invasion the British electorate are more distrustful of the Republicans in the White House and politicians in general.

    James Maskell, I usually find George Osborne insultingly called “Boy George” by Labour or Libdem supporters! Why not use a real thought out argument rather than petty insults to make your point.

  5. malcolm says:

    I would hope that the Republicans and the Conservative Party can start to get along better as we have for so long in the past.
    It’s not a one way street and it will be interesting to see if Bushs team repent of the behaviour exhibited by Karl Rove to Michael Howard in particular which was childish to say the least.
    Hopefully we can a mature relationship moving forward based on a more equal footing. I’m told that Guiliani is a bit of anglophile which must be rare for a Mayor of New York so I hope he wins the nomination.

  6. Richard says:

    At the moment the GOP seems to have forgotten its small-state philosophy. Let us hope that their fiscal conservatism returns.

  7. scottish conservative says:

    correct me if im wrong but is guilliani not on record as saying some pro-sinn fein/ira things in the past? less relevant now obvioulsy but hardly the politics of the anglophile.

  8. Well the trashing of Bush during the last Presidential campaign by leading Tories and their youth wing didn’t exactly endear them either. But its good to see that there seems to be a bit of warming in the overall party relationship.

    Now if Tories can resist the temptation to overtly support one or other of the candidates in the primaries they might be ok.

  9. James Maskell says:

    Calm down Scotty. There are a fair few Tories who think George Osborne isnt ready for frontline politics, including me. Dont throw a strop because I called him Boy George. Incidentally his voice is still squeaky, thus the Boy reference.

  10. malcolm says:

    British reporting today that Osborne’s ‘meeting’ with Bush is much less than first seemed. Apparently more than a hundred other people will be at this ‘meeting’ too.George merely asked the Embassy to get him a ticket. An inept bit of spin.

  11. Scotty says:

    James Maskell, still waiting for a valid argument to back up your insults!

  12. James Maskell says:

    Whatever I put here, you will never accept it as a valid argument.

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