It is always dangerous for a politician – especially one in office – to interfere in another country's election. But last week, before German voters went to their polling stations, two of Europe's most prominent leaders took this chance; one backed the right wing Herr Stoiber and the other the incumbent Social Democrat Herr Schroder. The two daring intervenors were the French President Jacques Chirac and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair – no prizes for guessing who backed whom. Mr Blair put his money on the eventual winner by writing an article in which he said that Herr Schroder's critical comments on US and UK intervention in Iraq had raised interesting and important questions. It is an indication of how much the Prime Minister's support was valued that Herr Schroder travelled to London (not Paris) last night for talks at Downing Street – the first with a foreign leader since his election.

Tony Blair has often claimed that Britain could be a bridge between Europe and the United States. Gerhard Schroder will be asking him to perform that function by soothing the bruised feelings in Washington following the outright rejection of US policies he made during the election campaign. It will not be an easy task and Mr Blair will have requests to make in return; prominent among them will probably be one for German support (against the French) for reform of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy.



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