Real socialism loses us a Euro ally

ONE year on from the hostilities proper, the war in Iraq has effected its first regime change in the democratic West.No doubt there were other issues: the Madrid bombings as well as the usual ones - the economy, public spending etc.

ONE year on from the hostilities proper, the war in Iraq has effected its first regime change in the democratic West.

No doubt there were other issues: the Madrid bombings as well as the usual ones - the economy, public spending etc. But it seems pretty clear that what the Spanish people really chose last weekend was an end to their country's engagement in Iraq.

Senor Zapatero's promise to bring the troops home proved more popular with voters than Senor Aznar's slavish support of the Bush-Blair axis.

Mr Bush and his right-wing Republican supporters must be getting increasingly worried that the anti-war backlash could play in a key role in America's election later this year too. Especially as the economy has gone so spectacularly wrong under his leadership.


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But how about Blair?

The likelihood is that we are now a year off the next General Election campaign. Will that give time for the political agenda to move on?

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Or will it allow those vital questions about the legality, morality and sense of the war to rise up and topple our most arrogant of leaders?

The trouble is that, unlike the Spanish electorate, we have no obvious alternative.

The Tories? They have all Blair's faults, potentially worse. And none of his good points (I'm sure there are some - I'll try to work out what they are another time).

The Lib-Dems? They seem doomed to demonstrate forever the maxim about good guys not coming first.

Anyone else? After seven years of hoping, it's starting to look unlikely that the real Parliamentary opposition - Labour's own disillusioned backbenchers - will ever rise up and overthrow the leaders who have hijacked the party.

Which could leave us stuck with a supposedly Socialist government which has just lost a European ally by the return of the real Socialists to power in Spain.

IT doesn't seem that many years ago that I wrote, in another newspaper, an obituary for English cricket.

The national side had become the whipping boys of the Test circuit. Our former colonies around the world were all obviously better than us at the game we had given them.

The long age of West Indies dominance was drawing to a close - to be succeeded by one of Aussie supremacy.

England, it seemed, was a country where almost no one played cricket any more at club level, and even fewer bothered to watch.

The county game was in a mess, with matches taking place in front of a scorer, a journalist and a tea lady. And maybe a handful of old men.

The future for the Test team looked like being even contests with the Canadians and the Dutch.

And now? OK, I admit it: I was wrong.

Even if the Windies are no longer the force they were, I don't think they've slumped far enough to lose by ten wickets to Holland or Canada. Especially in their old stronghold of Sabina Park.

Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe and Nasser Hussain were already Test players when I reported English cricket's demise. Steve Harmison was still at school.

He now has the best figures for an innings by a Test bowler in Jamaica - a breathtaking seven for 12 as he skittled West Indies out for their lowest total ever, just 47 sorry runs.

Perhaps English cricket's not dead after all.

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