. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Tips From Tony

A bright autumn morning in London's St. James' Park, the tree-lined paths empty except for the occasional, hurrying spook. There, half-hidden by the fallen leaves, a closely typed document, crumpled and torn, almost as if discarded in anger. The official crest is unmistakable. So too is the stamp alongside: "Secret -- PM's eyes only."

Passing Downing Street a few moments later, the good citizen in me almost handed it back. But readers can be relied upon to keep a secret; and how often do we get the chance to read a postdated prime-ministerial missive to the man who would be the next U.S. president?

Dear John (if I may),

  Heartfelt congratulations. You fought a brilliant campaign. Yours is a great victory for America and for the world. As I said when we met at President Reagan's funeral, you can expect the unswerving support of the British government and people.

I think I mentioned to you that when George W. Bush first entered the White House I asked Bill Clinton how I should respond. It was Bill (still a great friend) who told me to ignore the fact that his successor was a Republican and get close to him. That has not been without its political costs, but I have always thought it the duty of a British prime minister to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. president. Anyway, let's not dwell on the past. The main thing is that I don't need any advice on how to react now that America again has a Democratic president. I am sure Bill has told you of the success of our third way, or progressive governance, conferences. Your victory provides an ideal moment to reinvigorate them.

Iraq, of course, will loom large as you prepare for the inauguration. My suggestion is that, for all that was said during the campaign, there is a chance now to leave behind the arguments about weapons of mass destruction and why we went to war. The challenge is to look ahead, not just in sorting things out in Iraq, but in building a new global partnership around American leadership.

I have been thinking hard about the transatlantic alliance. I have finally concluded that, on one point, the French are right. The old Cold War alliance cannot simply be rebuilt in the absence of the Soviet Union. The threats to America's interests -- and thus your geostrategic focus -- now lie beyond Europe's borders. We Europeans need to understand that. Equally, Europe no longer feels quite so reliant on the U.S. security guarantee that was at the heart of the Cold War alliance. The United States needs to understand that.

No, we have to strike a new bargain, based on shared interests as well as common threats. The issues that bind us -- the fight against Islamist terrorism, proliferation, the search for peace in the Middle East, energy security, climate change, managing China -- are as important as ever. So too are the economic ties. It is just that, without the communist threat, the relationship lacks an overarching framework. That is what we have to create.

It won't be easy. I understand that Richard Holbrooke got short shrift about Iraq when he paid a secret visit to Paris and Berlin on your behalf a little while back. I know Richard can sometimes be abrasive, but the French are determined not to send their troops to Iraq even for a new U.S. president. When you get around to reading the National Security Agency intelligence transcripts of conversations in the Elysee, you will see that Jacques Chirac has been dismissive of the significance of your victory. You may find the reports on his conversations with his best friends, the Chinese, equally revealing.

Like you, I speak fluent French but, frankly, I sometimes find it hard to have a civilized conversation with the president of the republic. Did you know he once accused me to my face of making the world a more dangerous place for my baby son Leo? Gerhard Schr?der doesn't have the same anti-American instincts, but he is too easily bullied by the French.

For all that, we have a mutual interest in rebuilding the transatlantic alliance. The United States needs European allies to add legitimacy to its international leadership. I need to repair fences with Europe so that Britain can resume its role as the pivotal power. And, as chairman of the Group of Eight nations in the first half of 2005, I am ideally placed to act as the broker. Silvio is already on side and Schr?der can probably be swayed. If all else fails, we must shame Chirac into joining us -- or at the very least isolate him. Anyway, we can discuss all this once you have caught up on some sleep.

Yours ever, Tony.

P.S. Cherie sends warmest regards to Teresa. Like you, I married up (politically, anyway) and our partners are sure to find a lot in common.

P.P.S. I am not sure if you are an admirer of Churchill but you are welcome to keep the Epstein bust in the Oval Office. It was always intended as a present for the office-holder rather than for G.W. personally, so don't let the Republicans spirit it away.

The puzzle remained. Had the Downing Street aide who had so carefully drafted the letter then tossed it away in a fit of pique? Perhaps the explanation lay in the barely decipherable scrawl, in the prime minister's hand, next to the Nov. 3 date:

Not at all sure about this. I am still betting on G.W. to win, so just make sure the video link to the White House is booked Wednesday morning. If I'm wrong, all that matters is that I'm the first to meet Kerry. T.B.

Philip Stephens is a columnist for the Financial Times, where this comment first appeared.