Irwin Stelzer

The road from Alabama to Blackburn

Irwin Stelzer says that Condoleezza Rice’s trip to Britain reflects Tony Blair’s high standing in America and Bush’s need to keep him on side

Irwin Stelzer says that Condoleezza Rice’s trip to Britain reflects Tony Blair’s high standing in America and Bush’s need to keep him on side

Potholes. America’s ambassador to Britain, Robert Tuttle, was sure that one of the shocks for his boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her visit to Blackburn, would be potholes. Or the talk of potholes. Which will be one of the many differences between America and Britain that her keen eyes and ears will have picked up when this trip is over.

Start with potholes. Rice is said to be a great fan of the Beatles, and undoubtedly expected to find at least some of the ‘four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’ which they memorialised in their ‘A Day in the Life’, a continuing favourite on the Sergeant Pepper album. What she might not have expected is that these potholes — if that was the Beatles’ meaning — are a problem for Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whom she is accustomed to seeing in the Foreign Office attended to by concerned officials with all the trappings that the Foreign Secretary of a once great world power retains. Straw may be a big deal in Westminster, but in his constituency he is just another local politician. Tuttle, who only recently was treated to the sort of tour mounted for Rice to Blackburn and Liverpool, was startled to learn that the Foreign Secretary’s day job is to cope with his constituents’ complaints about unfilled potholes.

Rice would never be subjected to such mundane problems. As an appointee of the President, with no constituency to attend to except him, and an occasional pesky senator — and therefore no independent political power base — Rice concentrates solely on one job, which these days is to figure out in just which direction to advise the President to take American foreign policy in the post-9/11, post-Iraq era.

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