Byers' cold steel

FORMER Cabinet minister Stephen Byers seems to be playing a strange game by dabbling in United States politics. And as he is the self-styled outrider for the Blairite project, President George W Bush may well wonder this week during his State visit just what sort of game Tony Blair is playing.

FORMER Cabinet minister Stephen Byers seems to be playing a strange game by dabbling in United States politics. And as he is the self-styled outrider for the Blairite project, President George W Bush may well wonder this week during his State visit just what sort of game Tony Blair is playing.

Mr Byers wants Tony's new best mate George defeated in next year's presidential elections. New Labour is so hugger-mugger with the Democrats that when Republican Bush was elected in 2000, Islington supper parties were awash with tears.

But then 9-11 happened and Blair stood shoulder to shoulder with Bush in the war against terrorism. And to the horror of Old Labour – as well the majority of the British public including free-thinking Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens, and Nationalists – the UK joined in the war in Iraq.

Tony Blair's decision split his own party. So while he cavorts with President Bush in fortress London and County Durham this week – it's the first State visit of an American president to the UK since Woodrow Wilson in 1918 – behind Bush's back, he and New Labour appear to be out to sabotage Bush's re-election.


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Stephen Byers has written to the European Union's world trade negotiator Pascal Lamy saying that if Mr Bush does not use his visit to announce a deal on the US steel tariffs that have threatened to spark a trade war, the EU should target swing states that could turn against Mr Bush in the forthcoming presidential elections to suffer.

Florida with its citrus products, Wisconsin with its apples and paper, and Iowa, which is dependent on exports of agricultural equipment, would be hit. So would chemicals exporting Tennessee – the home state of Democrat candidate Al Gore, which Bush amazingly won.

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Mr Byers reportedly says in his letter: "It is clear that steel tariffs were introduced for short-term political advantage to deliver on a promise made by George Bush during the last presidential election campaign in order to gain votes in key swing states like West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan where the steel industry is a major employer.

"The EU should now indicate that if President Bush fails to comply with the WTO ruling then it will impose tariffs targeted at the major sectors of employment in politically sensitive swing states."

Stephen Byers seems upset Mr Bush kept an election promise. If Labour had kept its manifesto promises on transport, he might still be Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

NORTH Essex MP Bernard Jenkin jumped the gun last week with a Press release condemning regional government. When he issued it, he was, to the outside world at least, still the Tories' defence spokesman – later that day, he just happened to be become Shadow Secretary of State for the Regions.

The most delicious irony of the new shadow cabinet is that arch Eurosceptic Mr Jenkin's immediate boss will be David Curry, arguably the most left-wing – and certainly the leading EU supporter – in the Conservative Party.

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