By Ray Fleming
I can't recall a G8 meeting that attracted as much interest as the one starting at Gleneagles tomorrow. Partly it's because of the way in which the agenda on Africa and climate change has been so publicly aired, partly it's because of President Bush's known resistance to his host's ideas on those two topics, and partly it's because of the question marks that hang over the future of some of the participants. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany is unlikely to be sitting at the G8 table next year; he faces an election that he seem likely to lose, indeed seems to want to lose, in September. President Jacques Chirac of France seems a spent force after his humiliation in the EU constitutional referendum, but could arrive at the meeting a rejuvenated man if Paris has been preferred to London for the 2012 Olympics; Silvio Berlusconi of Italy faces an election next year and his hold on the country seems insecure; Paul Martin, the Canadian prime minister heads a minority government plagued by financial scandal; George W Bush is experiencing the loss of power of all second-term US presidents, although earlier than most. Tony Blair will presumably never host a G8 meeting again although he may attend two or even three more. Which brings us to Vladimir Putin of Russia who is theoretically in his second and last presidential term, but may be planning to amend the constitution to allow him a third term; in any case, he will still be around for next year's G8 meeting which Russia will host. President Bush's blunt words about his relationship with Tony Blair in Trevor McDonald's interview shown on ITV last night will have shocked some people. But he was right to make clear that there was no quid pro quo providing his support for the Kyoto global warming treaty in exchange for Mr Blair's support on Iraq. I am sure that the British prime minister will have no problem with the President's position. The fact that Mr Bush was wrong about Iraq and Kyoto while Mr Blair at least got Kyoto right only makes things even more interesting.


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