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Gary Younge
Discrepant duo

If ever there was a paradox about the "special relationship" between the US and Britain then here it is. Two polls, on either side of the Atlantic, published on the same day suggest that Tony Blair and his party are suffering as a result of the British authorities quashing a terrorist plot in Britain while George Bush and his party are benefiting from it.

A poll in today's Guardian shows Labour dropping to a 19-year-low, nine points behind the Tories in the wake of, and it seems at least in part, because of the recent terror alerts.

Meanwhile a poll in USA Today reveals Republican fortunes for the mid-terms in November have been enhanced because of the terror alerts.

The UK poll shows that the vast majority of Britons - 72% - believe government policy has made Britain more of a target for terrorists. The US poll shows Americans more likely than they have been this year to believe they will be the victims of a terrorist attack but clearly not relating that fear to either Bush or the Republican party - both being at their most popular for some time.

The two polls reveal just how different the war on terror and terrorism itself is understood on either side of the Atlantic. Britons feel they were bombed because they were in Iraq; Americans went to Iraq in no small part because they were bombed. (True there was no link between the two, but that only became common currency after the event.)

But neither is doing well and both are liabilities to their respective parties' election prospects. On one level this situation is most difficult for Republicans who go into the elections in November knowing that their president will be around for another two years.

Most Republican candidates have been desperately trying to avoid Bush because he reminds voters too much of an unpopular war and ineffective leadership and will be there for just over two more years. Labour, on the other hand, could get rid of Blair anytime but will still have to do deal with his legacy of division within the party in general and his uncritical support for the US in particular.

Part of this discrepancy can be explained by how the wars and the war on terror have been consumed on either side of the Atlantic. Britons believe the wars are making us more vulnerable and blame Blair for it; Americans believe the wars are making them more vulnerable too. But somehow, Bush wriggles off the hook and basks in the light of a security operation that had nothing to do with him.

The clue to this discrepancy might be in the opposition the two leaders face. The Tory leader, David Cameron, is proving a hit with the very constituencies Labour is needs to win the next election; in the US the Democrats provide little in the way of opposition when it comes to shaping a more progressive response to the war or the war on terror.

Either way it suggests it just one more reason for Blair to leave soon, limping into his legacy past his lame duck companion.

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