Michael Howard last night accused George Bush of seeking to protect Tony Blair in an extraordinary row sparked by news that the Tory leader has been banned from the White House.
Mr Howard hit back after it emerged that his calls for Mr Blair to stand down over the Iraq war have enraged the US President. The simmering feud was
laid bare yesterday as it emerged that Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s most powerful official, told the Tory leader that he “could forget about meeting the President”.
Mr Howard last night launched an unprecedented attack on Mr Bush. “If some people in the White House, in their desire to protect Mr Blair, think I am too tough on Mr Blair or too critical of him, they are entitled to their opinion. But I shall continue to do my job as I see fit,” he said.
Senior Conservatives last night admitted that relations between the leader and Mr Bush broke down in February after Mr Howard called for the Prime Minister’s resignation in a Commons debate.
In a furious message to Mr Howard’s office Mr Rove said: “You can forget about meeting the President full stop. Don’t bother coming, you are not meeting him.”
Mr Howard is the first Tory leader in modern times to have been denied a meeting with a Republican president. Traditionally, the Tories and Republicans have been considered natural allies.
The Sun also reports on this affair and adds this:
Senior US Right-wingers blame Mr Howard for undermining the coalition in Iraq and say they are privately rooting for a Labour victory in the next election.
A Tory source said: “They see Tony Blair as a true ally against terror and the Tories as a bunch of w*****s.”
(w*****s is obviously supposed to mean “wankers”).
All this might seem like an overreaction by Bush and Rove, but David Carr at Samizdata knows a bit more:
Strange as it may sound, I have been reading what sound like reasonably reliable reports in the UK press about squadrons of young British Conservative
activists hot-footing it off to the USA to work in the Presidential election campaign…for the Democrats!.
In the interests of accuracy, I think it ought to be said that this is far more about the Tories trying to pull some sort of rug from under ‘Teflon Tony’ than establishing any sort of link with either the US Democrat Party or Mr Kerry. But in any event, it is still a deeply ill-judged political blunder….
…one wonders what these jet-setting young Tories were hoping to achieve by throwing their lot in with Mr Kerry? There is nothing to suggest that a President Kerry would somehow undermine Tony Blair. If the Tories cannot make a dent in him at
home, then how are they going to land any meaningful punches on him via Washington? And if they imagine that they are going to be the subject of any outreach by either the US Democrats of the Guardian-reading classes at home then all I can say is that they are even stupider than they look (and they look fairly stupid).
In short, the British Tories have managed to alienate one of their few powerful friends for no gain whatsoever and, since I assume that the leadership either gave their blessing to these transatlantic jaunts or, at the very least, turned a blind eye, then it merely reinforces my view that the British Conservative Party is in the hands of
buffoons and political pygmies.
If you consider this stupid affair in context of the benighted attempt to impeach Blair, it seems as if he is driving his opponents up the wall the same way Bush is doing it to his own in the US (and elsewhere). I don`t think that, barring accidents, anything can prevent Blair’s reelection.
It just remains to be seen how angry at Howard Rove really is. If he is as angry as it seems there might be even some ads of Swift boat vets describing their tour of duty on the River Thames fighting the Viet Tories. :-)