GEORGE BUSH has had to change his tune on which country is a 'rogue state' to keep his coalition together. Take China. Bush, and many of the hard-right Republicans, came to power last year declaring that China was a 'strategic competitor'. There was his sabre rattling with the Chinese during the spy plane crisis six months ago.
The Observer's foreign affairs editor, Peter Beaumont, commented in July about Bush's Star Wars missile defence project, 'the enemy in waiting, as numerous officials and fellow travellers of the Republican right have made clear, is China.' But all that has changed now.
'You won't hear much about dissidents, Taiwan or the dust-up with the spy plane,' a close adviser to Bush told the International Herald Tribune.
'He can't afford that now. The Chinese have never been in a better mood to rebuild their relationship with the US, and they know the president needs them too.'
'You'll never hear the words 'strategic competitor' again,' said James Steinberg, a former adviser to former US president Bill Clinton. Steinberg added that the Republican right was silent over Bush's trip to China last week, as 'their preoccupation now is not to lose the opportunity to go to war with Iraq.'
EVEN the Tories' old loyal supporters see the party as an irrelevance these days. The right wing Daily Mail only dedicated half a page to the Tories' conference in Blackpool the day after it opened.
It was on page 37, some ten pages after the news that fish fingers are no longer made from cod.
Where's the rat?
'FREED FROM Taliban hell-I lay terrified in my bed inside a filthy, rat- infested prison cell-I went on hunger strike and fought with vicious guards; I risked death to keep a secret diary for Express readers.' This was the Express front page on 9 October to publicise the report by its freed writer Yvonne Ridley.
Her report inside was slightly different. 'I was never physically hurt in any way,' said Ridley. 'The Taliban had cleaned the cell and made it hygenic.' But the Express group run by porn baron Richard Desmond is likely to continue its pro-war stance with a new addition to the team.
Margaret McDonagh, former general secretary of New Labour, has been appointed as general manager for the Express, Daily Star and OK! magazine.
A bid for a disaster
THE GOVERNMENT'S preferred bidder to run parts of London Underground after privatisation would leave Balfour Beatty in charge of two thirds of the tube. In the words of New Labour spin doctor Jo Moore, this was one of those announcements New Labour wanted to 'bury' in the wake of the World Trade Centre attacks.
Balfour Beatty leads the Metronet group that is the government's preferred bidder for the tube's sub-surface routes-the Circle, District, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City and East London lines. Balfour Beatty, the company involved in the Hatfield rail crash, is already the preferred bidder for the Bakerloo and Victoria lines.
That might be a bit of good news for Jo Moore, special adviser to transport secretary Stephen Byers, who has been attacked for her comment about 'burying' policy announcements.
Moore used to work for the lobbyist Westminster Strategy, a firm that represented a number of key privateers.
McPay cuts bite
McDONALD'S, THE fast food giant that sponsored the Labour Party conference, has cut its pay rates for young workers after the government's new minimum wage rules.
It has introduced different rates of pay for workers under 21 after the increases in the minimum wage took effect in October. McDonald's paid a rate of £3.75. It has increased the rate for 18 to 21 year olds to £3.90, and for those over 22 to £4.10.
Those workers aged 16-17 will continue to be paid £3.75. Around 75 percent of its 20,000 staff are under 21. The company will make savings of £3 million next year.
MARGARET Thatcher launched an attack on Muslim leaders in Britain for what she regarded as lack of criticism for the attacks on the World Trade Centre. But she had a different attitude to the self confessed Afghan terrorist Abdul Haq who planted a bomb at Kabul airport in 1984 as part of the war against the Russian troops.
The bomb killed 28 people, most of them schoolchildren on their way to Moscow. Margaret Thatcher invited him to Downing St two years later where she praised him as a 'freedom fighter' and urged him to continue the struggle.
Sign of the times
THE ANTI-war movement is popping up everywhere. At the World Half Marathon Championships in Bristol recently an anti-war activist stood near the finish line with a sign saying 'Bush/Blair, we don't want your dirty war'.
Security officers tried to force her to move the sign. When she refused they then forcibly took the sign from around her neck and escorted her from the finish line. It would seem that the attempt to silence the anti-war movement is everywhere too.
Things they say
'LOOK, Paul-those that aren't with us are against us.'
HILARY ARMSTRONG, New Labour's chief whip
'YOU WON'T even give us a free vote on whether we go to war-it is a matter of conscience.'
PAUL MARSDENM, Labour MP opposed to the bombing of Afghanistan
'WAR IS not a matter of conscience. Abortion and embryo research are matters of conscience, but not wars.'
'ARE YOU seriously saying blowing people up and killing people is not a moral issue?'
'IT IS government policy that we are at war. You astound me. We can't have a trusting relationship if you keep talking to the media without permission. You must stop using the media.'
'THAT'S A bit rich coming from people like you and Downing Street when Stephen Byers' spin doctor Jo Moore says September 11 is a good day to bury bad news.'
'WE DON'T have spin doctors in number 10-or anywhere else.'
'YOU aren't seriously telling me that you don't have spin doctors. You are losing it, Hilary.'
'YOU WAIT until I really do lose it. I am not going to have a dialogue with you about that. It was people like you who appeased Hitler in 1938.'
'That's the official line now is it? We are all appeasers if we don't agree with everything you say?'