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Thank you very much. Charles Moore, Anthony Browne, Dean Godson, distinguished guests: I appreciate the cordial welcome to London. I always look forward to visiting the United Kingdom, and this time around I couldn’t ask for a better host than the Policy Exchange.
We have a few policies back home that we’d like to exchange, and think tanks like this are the place to come. After just five years, the Policy Exchange ranks among the best, and the fine reputation of your work has reached Washington as well. I congratulate all of you, and I thank you for the hospitality.
Your kind invitation brings me here just as Great Britain prepares to greet an incoming prime minister.
Back in the U.S., we’re able to watch the House of Commons’ “Prime Minister’s Question Time,” which Mr. Brown will now endure. I’ve thought that America needed a weekly question and answer period between the President and Congress. But in the past few months I’ve decided it isn’t such a good idea.
Your system also allows a change in the head of government at a moment's notice. Even your general election campaigns are mercifully brief.
Of course we believe in long presidential campaigns in the U.S. Most American politicians are afraid they won’t be considered serious candidates until they’ve made a promise a hundred times and spent a hundred million dollars. Though every now and then you still get some slow-poke who takes his time before announcing.
I congratulate Mr. Brown, and I wish him well as the 53rd prime minister of the United Kingdom. And if you’ll allow me a word about the 52nd … we’ll miss him. There are disputes of party here that are strictly British affairs. But sometimes the better points of statesmen possibly are seen more clearly at a distance.
We are profoundly grateful for the friendship of the British people, and in America we’ll always remember Mr. Blair as a gallant friend, even when it did him no good politically.
When we in the States take the measure of your leaders, their party affiliation doesn’t really count for a whole lot. It’s been this way for a while now, at every moment when it mattered. It was true in the days of Churchill and Roosevelt … of Thatcher and Reagan … and Blair and Bush.
Fred Thompson has been a lawyer, actor and United States Senator. He writes exclusive analysis and commentary for Townhall Magazine.