Five hurdles for Britain's next PM

The country's massive debt and war in Afghanistan will be major challenges.

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    The war in Afghanistan will be an issue for the next prime minister [EPA]

    Being British prime minister is not an easy job. 

    It still carries a lot of influence; the incumbent is regarded as a major player on the world stage.

    Britain plays its part in the G8, the European Union, the G20 and of course the Commonwealth. It commands a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

    Add to that the current financial crisis, and it's hard to see why anyone would want to give themselves so many headaches with the potential of sleepless nights.

    But there will be five things that whoever takes control in Downing Street will have to be prepared for, and will have to get to work on as soon as they cross the threshold of Number 10.

    Massive debt

    Firstly, there is Britain's massive debt. It's the third biggest in Europe. Only Iceland and Greece have bigger. 

    It has to be brought under control within four years.

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    This leads us nicely on to raising taxes. The deficit won't suddenly disappear.

    It has to be whittled away. And that will certainly mean tax rises. And they are never popular.

    And going hand in hand with tax rises are cuts in public spending.

    Difficult decisions lie ahead.

    Schools, hospitals, police are all the things that people really associate with government; the things they really care about.

    The cuts will have to come here or in some other area which directly touches the voter.

    And while we're here, all parties are talking about making efficiencies in government spending.

    That often means job losses, and rarely does it lead to a better service to the people who fund it all, the tax payer.

    The Afghan war

    A fourth thing that will have to be addressed is the war. 

    The election campaign is a bit like a famous scene from a very popular TV comedy show. 

    Politicians are wandering around saying "Don't mention the war.  I mentioned it once but I thought I got away with it". 

    But it's an issue that's not going to go away. 

    Britain is still actively engaged in Afghanistan.  It's a conflict that costs lives and money. 

    And it's predicted Britain will be there for at least another five years, the lifetime of the next parliament.

    The unexpected

    So the last thing in our list of five is ... well I don't know. 

    And neither do the politicians. 

    It's the thing that you never expected, never planned and blindsides you at four o'clock on a wet, quiet Thursday. 

    Tony Blair made a speech in 1999 that suggested the turn of the century could herald and era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. 

    He didn't foresee, couldn't foresee 9/11, the war in Iraq, the attacks on the London transport system, the meltdown of international financial systems. 

    How could he?  But those are the things that test the mettle, challenge governments and separate true leaders from the footnotes in history.

    It is perhaps the most thankless job in Britain. 

    But for some it's the only one worth having.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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