London — The leader of America's staunchest ally has welcomed George Bush's victory as an affirmation of conservatism and continuity in United States foreign policy toward Western Europe. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she stayed up until 5:15 a.m. London time to watch election returns on television ``until it was absolutely in the bag.''
She said the Bush victory was a ``very clear, decisive result'' and offered her ``warmest congratulations'' to Mr. Bush in an early-morning telephone call. She praised Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis for a ``generous and graceful'' speech when he conceded defeat.
The prime minister told reporters on the doorstep at 10 Downing Street that she got on well with Bush and shared similar views on most issues.
``The main advantage [of the Bush victory] is [that] the same, positive policies of the last eight years, which are very similar to our own, will continue into the future,'' Mrs. Thatcher said. ``I think that gives Europe enormous confidence in continuity.''
Thatcher said she was looking forward to next week's visit to Washington, where she will be the first senior foreign leader to meet with the President-elect.
Bush and Sen. Robert Dole were voted by London bankers and economists earlier this year as the presidential candidates most likely to benefit the British economy.
Nevertheless, there was a measurable lack of confidence in London's financial community. Share prices dropped sharply on the London stock exchange, and the dollar weakened against all major European currencies as initial enthusiasm for a Bush victory disappeared in the memory of last year's world stock market crash and massive US budget deficits.
Despite arguments by bankers and economists to the contrary, many British investors blame the crash on lack of US fiscal discipline and a trade imbalance which, under Reagan, turned the US from the world's largest creditor nation to its largest debtor nation.
``The first thing that all economic analysts are looking for from the new President is serious measures to tackle the budget deficit. And unfortunately, as far as everyone can tell, that means putting up taxes in one form or another,'' said economist Geoffrey Dicks of the London Business School.
In a message to the President- elect, Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey offered his congratulations. ``The American people have spoken decisively. We will continue to work for dialogue, for reconciliation, and for a peaceful resolution of the problem of Northern Ireland,'' Mr. Haughey said.
Many British conservatives interpret the Bush victory as a strong endorsement of their political ideology. US voters clearly did not find Bush's personality as appealing as they did that of Ronald Reagan, said Peregrine Worsthorne, editor of the conservative Sunday Telegraph.
``For a very weak candidate to win means that Americans have voted for the policies rather than the man,'' Mr. Worsthorne told the Monitor.
As a result, he said, ``right-wing policies have been given a bigger shot in the arm by this election than by Reagan's.''
Others view Bush's victory with greater skepticism.
The Bush presidency reflects ``the dearth of real political talent in the Republican Party,'' said US historian Hugh Brogan at the University of Essex. ``He seems to be seriously underqualified for the job and really owes [his victory] to the patronage of President Reagan,'' Mr. Brogan said.
Bush has strong ancestral ties to the British Isles. A leading genealogist has traced the Bush ancestry to the English village of Messing near Colchester in Essex.
Genealogist Hugh Peskett reports that Bush, through complicated family connections, is a 13th cousin twice removed of the Queen.
He is descended from yeoman farmer John Bush whose son crossed the Atlantic in 1631 to resettle in Massachusetts.
According to Burke's Peerage, the Bush family tree includes Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, when she married the Duke of Suffolk in the early 1400s.