Yesterday evening some of the Conservative Party's top donors mingled with MPs, including Iain Duncan Smith, and journalists, including the Editor of The Sun, at the inaugural Margaret Thatcher lecture - hosted by Liam Fox's Atlantic Bridge. Before the Mayor spoke all of the reception talk was of an autumn election and people were very downbeat about the party's prospects. The mood was much improved after Rudy Giuliani had spoken. It was not a great speech and the former New York Mayor went on a little long, but his remarks were rich in content and a tonic to British Conservatives who hear too little from their own leadership about security and defence issues.
Giuliani began by paying handsome tribute to Baroness Thatcher - who looked magnificent at the main table (Liam Fox pointedly told his guests that he had enjoyed a wonderful and wide-ranging conversation with her over dinner). The frontrunning candidate for the Republican nomination also said that he had been inspired by her leadership and conviction. Thatcher and Reagan were the golden years in the very special relationship between Britain and America. He joked that he was lucky she wasn't running for President. She would certainly win! He spent some time saying how much he also admired Nicolas Sarkozy and said that he hoped that he would do for France what Thatcherism did for Britain. The speech also included tributes to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. They understood the challenge of terror, he said. The longest and warmest applause came when he paid tribute to all of the British troops that had "liberated" Iraq and Afghanistan. They should be so proud of what they did and it was now for all politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure the job that started with those liberations is properly completed. Pointing to Margaret Thatcher, this is not a time to go "wobbly", he said, and there must be no going back to the appeasement of pre-9/11.
- The need for institutionalisation of intelligence-sharing. Both nations had much to learn from each other and he hoped to introduce a 'TerrorStat' intelligence system that would monitor 'precursor activities' of terrorists to act as early warning signals for the authorities in the same way that lesser crimes were used as a warning of a larger propensity to criminality in his New York war on crime.
- Expansion of NATO. Any nation with military readiness and a commitment to global responsibility should be able to join NATO. He mentioned Australia, India, Israel, Japan and Singapore. These nations might encourage existing European members of NATO to take their own responsibilities more seriously.
- A bigger military. All armed forces (and intelligence services) were cut too deeply after the end of the Cold War. We need new capacities including the capacity for a large war with a nation state. Gulp! 'Prepare for the worst but hope for the best,' Giuliani said.
- Winning the war through ideas. This area of ideological warfare had been neglected, he implied.
At the end of the evening Giuliani went up to Liam Fox and hugged him. I liked the humanity in that.
PS Ben Brogan has posted this report.
Earlier in the day the Mayor had criticised the British system of healthcare:
"Healthcare right now in America, and I think it has been true of your experience of socialised medicine in England, is not only very expensive, it's increasingly less effective. I had prostate cancer seven years ago. My chance of survival in the US is 82%; my chance of survival if I was here in England is below 50%. Breast cancer, very similar. I think there's something to the idea that there are many more private options driving the system that create altogether better results."