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WHEN Oliver Wendell Holmes proposed that this magazine be called The Atlantic Monthly, the conceit was that the magazine, like the ocean, would carry trade between the Old World and the New. In a statement that appeared in the first issue of the magazine, the publishers declared, "While native writers will receive the most solid encouragement, and will be mainly relied upon to fill the pages of The Atlantic, [the editors] will not hesitate to draw from the foreign forces at their command."
The foreign forces are exemplified in this issue by the worldly and well-traveled historian-journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who in "The Paradoxical Case of Tony Blair" reports on the resurgence of Britain's Labour Party. Wheatcroft, fifty, who has written for the magazine on subjects as diverse as Margaret Thatcher and Salman Rushdie, the Republic of Ireland and the island of Antigua, has been affiliated over the years with some of England's best-known publications. In the late 1970s he was a columnist for The Spectator, and also its literary editor. In the following years he was first the editor of the "Londoner's Diary" in the Evening Standard and then that newspaper's opera critic. He is currently a columnist for the Daily Express. In the interstices of regular employment he has written many freelance articles and published two books--The Randlords (1985), a study of South African mining magnates, and Absent Friends (1989), a collection of biographical sketches. A new book, The Controversy of Zion , about the history of Zionism , will be published this fall by Addison-Wesley.
Wheatcroft covered Tony Blair, the young, astute, sometimes-hard-to-pin-down leader of Britain's Labour Party, when Blair first stood for office, in 1982. How does covering British politics differ from covering American politics? "In America government is more open. In England society is more intimate--journalists and ministers are more likely to see each other informally at lunch clubs or at parties. I remember Dwight Macdonald's saying how astonished he was when he first lived in London that politicians and newspapermen and union leaders and writers all went to the same parties. That doesn't mean the politicians are any more likely to tell you the truth, of course." For all that, the political resonances are audible. As Wheatcroft says, "Blair has clearly got Clinton in mind the whole time--as an example and also as a warning."
Copyright ©1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; June 1996; 745 Boylston Street; Volume 277, No. 6; page 6.