John Kerry supporters in America have been told by Peter Hain that Downing Street is hoping the Democratic candidate wins the US presidential election in November.
Mr Hain, who sits in the cabinet as Leader of the Commons, has been in the US on a near-private visit. He met Labour supporters in New York, as well as members of the Kerry team. He has declined to discuss the visit, and his public remarks at a party thrown by the former Sunday Times editor Harold Evans were largely bland. But in private discussions with guests, his tone was markedly different.
Those who met him had the strong impression that he was acting with No 10's support, and that a Democratic victory was clearly sought. Such a supposition ought to be natural, but historic ties have been jolted by the strategic and sometimes personal alliance between George Bush and Tony Blair over Iraq. Mr Hain's visit may be seen by some as diplomatic ground-covering in the event of a Kerry victory.
In public the government will remain studiously neutral. And some Blairites doubt that Mr Kerry has the campaign drive to defeat the incumbent.
But in a sign of frustration inside the Labour party over the government's neutrality, the Blairite group Progress is to issue a scathing attack on Mr Bush's record, although the group is sympathetic to the action in Iraq; Alan Milburn, the former cabinet minister, is its honorary president.
[. . .]
Blair realizes that our 'special relationship' with the Brits has been given a wedgie by President Flightsuit. I was wondering when he'd stop being Bush's crash test dummy.