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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK

European press assesses Labour's win

European newspapers were quick to react to Labour's election victory, describing it almost unanimously as "historic".

But commentators across the Channel varied in their focus on the win, some trying to fathom the secret of Tony Blair's success, others looking to future ramifications for the European Union and the single currency.

For Spain's El Mundo, Mr Blair's win was a carbon-copy of Bill Clinton's 1996 victory.

"He's cleaned up the British economy, the country is at peace, he's occupied the centre ground and the opposition is very divided," the paper said in an editorial.

"He's lost a good deal of his charisma, but he didn't have any rivals."

But the paper also put the victory down to Mr Blair inheriting Margaret Thatcher's legacy.

"Thatcher can now retire," it said. "In Blair the UK has found its best successor to her: a new Labourite - only comedians talk about the Third Way nowadays - who is post-modern and post-ideological."

Italy's La Repubblica also drew comparisons between the "trendy and middle class" Mr Blair and Mrs Thatcher.

Viagra

"Thatcher did the dirty work, freeing the 'British patient' from the straitjacket suffocating it," the paper said.

"Blair has put it back on its feet, given it Prozac and Viagra, a computer and a mobile phone and has sent it off to the cinema to watch 'Cool Britannia' movies."


" Never could a bald gnome with a baby face and monkey ears manage to defeat Blair "
Diario de Noticias

For Portugal's Diario de Noticias, however, it was image alone that won Labour the election, and lost it for William Hague.

False smile

"Even after four years of a terrible government, never could a bald gnome with a baby face and monkey ears manage to defeat Blair," the paper insisted.

"Mr Hague, it is said, is a great parliamentarian... but no-one can stomach him. He speaks with a false smile, showing his pre-adolescent teeth."

By contrast, the paper argued, "Mr Blair's curls and his sweet and concerned voice are irresistible".

Austria's Die Presse went for the same approach, describing the election as a choice between "Blair's fixed smile and Hague's bald pate".

Pied piper

A commentator at the Milan-based Corriere della Sera found himself entranced by "Blair the pied piper".

"Until only a few months ago we thought Bill Clinton was the election machine par excellence. But now we have seen Tony Blair at work again we are going to have to change our minds," Alessio Altichieri said.

He went on to speculate about the implications of the win for Britain's relations with the EU, suggesting Mr Blair had "finally set off down the path" of joining the euro.

"People said that with devolution for Scotland and Wales, Britain would fall apart. It has not happened. The same thing will happen with the euro if Blair uses some of his magic potion."

Turnout

France's Le Monde suggested Labour's win, though large, was tarnished by the low turnout.

"To work, Mr Blair!" it called, suggesting there was still much to do.

"Inequalities have continued to grow and the state of disrepair of hospitals, schools and the trains has fed a growing dissatisfaction: more jobs aren't enough to convince British people that their lives are getting better."

"Hence victory of a 'yes, but...' kind."

The great leap

Meanwhile, Germany's Die Welt concentrated on the euro question in its reaction to the Labour win, encouraging Mr Blair to take the plunge.

"The rest of the EU has been waiting a long time for the British and patience on the continent will not last forever," the paper asserted.

"It is time for him to take a stand and put his name to a clear direction: for or against the euro, for or against the leap over the Channel."

"Jump, Tony, jump."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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