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The manifestos - Find the missing word

14 April 2005

What word is missing from all the party political manifestos? What all-shaping, decisive political word, cannot be found in them at all?

No one in the openDemocracy office could guess, not even David Hayes.

It’s the gorilla in the nursery, the elephant in the living room.

It isn’t ‘globalisation’, which the Labour Manifesto mentions – the Tory Manifesto one only manages the more feeble ‘global’ a couple of times. It isn’t the ‘constitution’, which Labour claims to have reshaped.

It isn’t Europe. Alan Cowell of the New York Times launched his intelligent election coverage with a fascinating article on how Europe was a key issue at the last election but has simply been bled out of political debate in today’s Britain - even though it is arguably the most important question facing the United Kingdom.

But while not an ‘issue’ in contention, at least all the party manifestos take a stand on Europe and the EU in suitably pious ways.

No, the word all parties fear is: AMERICA

Our new found land and oldest ally has yet to be discovered so far as the current election campaign is concerned.

All three have international sections on Britain’s role in world affairs. In them Labour’s manifesto twice mentions that “we have worked with the US” (without the ‘A’). This is hardly generous. The Tory document makes no mention of the global leviathan at all. Nor does the Liberal Democrat Manifesto.

But the whole of Blair’s approach to world affairs is built on his belief that Britain has to be as close as possible to the United States of America. It is his foreign policy.

No party dares to be seen as anti-American. All fear the call from the US Embassy that would follow. Nor, now, this is a great change, dare they be seen as pro-American, for British voters do not wish to see their national leaders on their knees before Washington, the only posture that seems acceptable to George Bush. So shifty avoidance and silence follows.

It all adds to the smell of discomfort, shame and humiliation of these election days.

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