By Ray Fleming
IF George W Bush is the most powerful man in the world it surely follows that the woman who has most influence on him must be the most powerful woman in the world. No! Not Laura Bush. It's Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, who has just been placed at the top of a list of the 100 most powerful women compiled by the influential Forbes magazine. When Dr Rice was first noticed in Mr Bush's circle during the 2000 election he explained that she had “taught me all I know about foreign policy”. Now she circles the world telling recalcitrant countries to get their democratic act together; she is being touted as the first woman President of the United States, although she denies that she has that ambition. Another possible “first woman President”, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is in 26th place in the Forbes list although she held fifth place last year; most people would find it difficult to know that she has done wrong to justify that demotion. The same applies to Laura Bush, number four last year but now only 46th; again, most people would think she had a pretty good election supporting her husband. And, speaking of political husbands and wives, Cherie Blair is 62nd, behind Harry Potter author J K Rowling (40th) but ahead of Queen Elizabeth (75th). The highest ranking British woman in the opinion of Forbes is Marjorie Scardino, Chief Executive of Pearson, the parent company of the Financial Times Group and Penguin publishing, who is placed 18th. I have now mentioned the only four British women listed; there are also four French names. For the rest it's only one or two per country and a total of 66 from the United States of America. Number two is considered to be Wu Yi, China's Vice Premier; number three is the photogenic Julia Tymosenko, now prime minister of Ukraine, who stood beside Viktor Yushchenko during that country's orange revolution last year.

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