Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, June 28, 2007 (UPI, The Washington Post) – Gordon Brown’s accession to the British Prime Ministership doesn’t seem half bad when compared to some of his less remarkable European colleagues. We have the Polish Kaczynski gnomes, and their incessant nationalistic plather. Then there is the Czech Imperator Vaclav Klaus – up for re-election next year, his ego is already bursting at the seams – hardly containable in Prague Castle. The Romanian President Bassescu, having resoundingly won a referendum on his ouster, proceeds to show why his ouster might not have been such a bad idea after all.
Only 48 hours into office, Gordon Brown has shown leadership by swiftly sacking Blair’s old Cabinet – with all positions changed, except for Defense Minister Des Brown. His Foreign Secretary is 41; his Home Secretary is the first woman to hold that post in British history. The average age of Brown’s cabinet is 49. He also brings in Mark Malloch Brown, Kofi Annan’s former Chief of Staff, as Minister for African Affairs – something that is sure to annoy the Bush administration.
Brown has a small window, and even some good news. A Tory M.P. defected to the Labour Party just as Brown took his oath from the Queen yesterday. A poll released just days before he became prime minister showed his Labour Party ahead of David Cameron’s Conservatives for the first time in over a year. Those who were tired of Tony Blair will give Brown the benefit of the doubt – at first. Another daunting task will be his relationship with Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy – centrists who are inclined to distrust an old school Labourite. It is said that Bush asked Tony Blair to stay in office until the end of 2008 – the end of his presidential term – not exactly a vote of confidence for Gordon Brown.
Brown already has a series of conflicts just two days after taking office. He must pacify the Labour-left who was against Blair. He is stuck in the Iraq conflict in a Labor Party who is deeply against the war – even more so than the U.S. Democratic electorate who are opposed.
He must convince business – who mostly distrusts him – that he will be a centrist free-market pro-economy prime minister. London has become the world’s key business and financial market recently overtaking New York. The United Kingdom has consistently outperformed the continental market. The pound is strong – and has proven its muster against the Euro, which itself has done quite well on financial markets. But Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the well-known Euro-skeptic and member of Global Panel’s board, warns that “London has terminal cancer in the shape of the European Union’s ‘Financial
Services Action Plan’, which will remove its low regulatory advantage over New York and other emerging financial centers.”
Brown is not Tony Blair – some would say “thank god for that.” I disliked Tony Blair and was no fan of his policies; but, his pro-business stand was good. Blair’s policies will certainly be tested by Brown’s generally more socially-minded pro-labor posture. It is still unclear how far Brown will go to pacify the Labour Left.
In general, I find the system which allows British political parties to anoint British prime ministers without elections difficult to swallow. It bothered me when Margaret Thatcher was ousted; it still bothers today – even in its positive form.
Meanwhile, in Poland, the Kaczynski twins, the blustering foul-mouthed President and Prime Ministerial tandem have again showered the world stage with their idiocy.
Since their election the twins have attempted to cleanse the Polish bureaucracy of its Communist Secret Police past. On the face of it, this is good and long overdue. But the twins have used the Polish Lustration Law as an excuse to go after their political opponents. Numerous Poles I know and respect, diplomats, ministers and statesman have been subjected to the twins’ revisionist theory of history. Even the likes of former dissident and post-Communist Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and Statesman Tadeusz Mazowiecki have been stripped of state awards because they refused to support the wholesale witch-hunt. Also felled, Radek Sikorski – the husband of Anne Applebaum – formerly of the AEI, who had been Defense Minister but refused to support the twin’s obvious political machinations.
This behavior can only be topped by the outrageous comments just a few weeks ago by the Polish Prime Minister that Poland should have a different vote total in European affairs because Germany had killed at least 20 million Poles during the war; were it not to have been, so the argument, Poland would today have 60 million people. Should then say Jewish people attack Poland, because surely a large portion of those Poles would have been Jewish – many killed in death camps in Poland – Majdanek, Auschwitz, Treblinka – oh, and the Warsaw Ghetto. The whole line of attack is just sick and demented, a fine example of the twins absurdity.
In the Czech Republic, Ceasar Vaclav Klaus is up for reelection next year; he is so proud at the thought of equaling Vaclav Havel’s two terms as President. Like a rabid dog, he is stalking the halls of the castle impressed with the opposition’s incompetence at finding a candidate to run against him. This is the man who won his first term in office by cohabitating with the Communist Party and thus gaining their votes. Klaus is no Havel. He should be dumped for being corrupt, and for the embarrassment that he is to the Czech Republic and her people. Wake up Czech Republic!
In Romania the new Defense Minister Teodor Melescanu, a friend, and his colleague Foreign Minister Adrian Cioroianu are good stewards of their ministries. Romania is an important new anchor of the European Union. I am concerned about the bluster of the current President. He too is using his office to go after political opponents claiming to be doing so in the name of fighting corruption. He does this while letting his own clan go un-touched. Just a day after winning a referendum to keep his office, he attempted to have political opponents arrested,
Leadership requires statecraft; Brown might have it. The others, however, deserve to be banished into oblivion.
(UPI Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. A venture capitalist with seats in Berlin and Prague, he sits on the National Advisory Board of the U.S. Democratic Party.)