Tony blair

The Tories didn’t lose Mid Bedfordshire – Labour won it

In 1975 I travelled as an undergraduate to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and finally to Israel. I visited refugee camps and met a Palestinian militant, Bassam Abu Sharif, who had been blinded in one eye by a Mossad parcel bomb. I talked to policymakers in each country and heard a range of Israeli opinion. On return I wrote in the Jewish Chronicle of the need to address the plight of the Palestinians caused by their displacement. I made the case in favour of a two-state solution five years before the 1980 Venice declaration on Palestinian statehood. One of today’s many tragedies is that Hamas’s barbarism has pushed that solution even

Does the public want reheated Blairism?

To understand the political journey of Sir Keir Starmer, look to Liz Kendall. This week the Blairite and one-time leadership contender was put in charge of Labour’s welfare reform policy. Her promotion has upset the party’s left-wingers, who already think Starmer is too right-wing on welfare. ‘She’ll be more hard-line than Jonathan Ashworth,’ says one shadow minister in reference to her predecessor. But her real influence started well before she was given a place at Starmer’s shadow cabinet table. Even those who were demoted or axed put on a brave face: ‘It shows Labour senses it is about to win’  Kendall’s role in the 2015 contest was to speak hard

If Blairism were a carvery: the Impeccable Pig reviewed

Labour is 30 points ahead, and in honour of this I review the Impeccable Pig in Sedgefield (Cedd’s field), a medieval market town and pit village south of Durham. It is Tony Blair’s former constituency and Camelot, but nothing lasts for ever. Blairism had pleasingly flimsy beginnings. Sedgefield had yet to choose a Labour parliamentary candidate when a young lawyer sat in a borrowed car outside the house of John Burton, head of the Trimdon Labour Club, on 11 May 1983, thinking he should drive back to London. But he got out and told Burton and his friends that if they selected him, they wouldn’t have to pretend they hated

Tony Blair’s Covid grift

Have we yet seen the end of Covid restrictions? It is tempting to think so. For many people, Covid and the lockdowns have receded into history, replaced by Ukraine and the energy crisis. It would be easy, but foolish, to dismiss Tony Blair’s proposals as the ramblings of a bored ex-PM But perhaps we have parked the whole business in our memories a little too soon. Some are already pushing for restrictions to be re-enacted this winter. The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has just published a paper, Three Months to Save the NHS, demanding that the government consider re-imposing mask mandates on public transport and other enclosed settings.

Joyously liberating: Tony! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera] reviewed

Harry Hill’s latest musical traces Tony Blair’s bizarre career from student pacifist to war-mongering plaything of the United States. With co-writer Steve Brown, Hill has created a ramshackle, hasty-looking production that deliberately conceals the slickness and concentrated energy of its witty lyrics, superb visuals and terrific music. The last thing it wants to seem is sophisticated and it starts off with a parade of New Labour grandees, all grotesquely overblown. John Prescott is a violent northern drunkard who wants to punch everyone in the face – including the Scots because ‘they’re too far north to be proper north’. Robin Cook is a cerebral sex maniac. David Blunkett gets pulled around

Blair is wrong: the future of Britain shouldn’t involve Macron

Tony Blair believes the way forward for Britain is to seek guidance from Emmanuel Macron. The former British prime minister has a reputation for outlandish claims but the suggestion that the United Kingdom can benefit from pearls of wisdom proffered by the most divisive president in the history of the Fifth Republic is baffling even by Blair’s standards. According to Politico, Blair will host a Future of Britain conference on June 30, which is a collaboration between his eponymous Institute and the Britain Project, a centrist think tank that was established in the wake of the 2019 general election and which is described by Politico as the ‘British version of

The ghosts that could come back to haunt Blair

I’m picturing Sir Tony Blair enjoying a fitting of his Garter robes after watching Boris Johnson stagger through PMQs. ‘I’m in the clear these days,’ he’s thinking. ‘So much water under the bridge, what could possibly come back to haunt me?’ Well, here are two items he might like to consider: the application of the 2003 US-UK extradition treaty in the case of Dr Mike Lynch; and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’s statement that new sanction rules will mean ‘nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs’ and their fin-ancial assets. Lynch was the founder of Autonomy, a UK software firm which Hewlett-Packard of the US bought in 2011 for $11 billion —

Robert Harris on Boris Johnson, cancel culture and rehabilitating Chamberlain

Robert Harris has long been on a one-man crusade to reverse history’s negative verdict on the architect of appeasement. He argues that it was Neville Chamberlain’s duty to go the extra mile for peace and give Britain the moral authority to fight Hitler in the second world war. ‘There seems to be a general feeling that he couldn’t have done much else. He bought us precious time.’ Now the appearance of an acclaimed Anglo-German Netflix film Munich — The Edge of War, starring Jeremy Irons as Chamberlain, and based on Harris’s 2017 novel Munich, gives him the chance to bring his quixotic campaign to a mass audience. Born in 1957

Coming soon: Andrew Adonis’s Blair best-seller

It’s always difficult to know what to get a politics-mad relative at Christmas. Another Private Eye annual perhaps? Tickets to see Matt Forde’s stand-up tour? A Blu Ray box set of The Thick Of It? Or yet another ‘hilarious’ satirically themed book like ‘Five on Brexit Island‘ or ‘The Illustrated Tweets of Donald Trump.‘  Fortunately for those long-suffering politicos anticipating several cheeseboards and a ‘witty’ festive mug, help will be at hand for next year due to the imminent arrival of what will surely be the Christmas bestseller of 2022. For word reaches Mr S that Lord Adonis, Britain’s most ironically-titled peer, is turning his quill to a subject very close to his

What I really said to Gordon Brown: Field Marshal Lord Guthrie sets the record straight

A headline in the Mail on Sunday, taken up eagerly by the BBC’s Today programme, claimed recently: ‘The SAS is getting worried that not enough posh officers are applying for jobs.’ Having hooked those shocked by the thought that the SAS should draw such distinctions, as well as those appalled that oiks are applying at all, the piece actually went on to explain that one officer failed the selection because he ‘lacked the sophistication’ to be able to brief cabinet ministers on operations. No lack of sophistication ever attached to Charles Guthrie. When, as head of school at Harrow, you’ve had tea with Winston Churchill in the headmaster’s study, planned

The next big hunting battle

In his memoirs, Tony Blair did not have much good to say about his government’s seven-year long struggle to ban fox hunting. The former PM, writing in 2010, admitted he deliberately sabotaged the 2004 Hunting Act to ensure there were enough loopholes to allow hunting to continue. Confessing that he initially agreed to a ban without properly understanding the issue, Blair wrote: ‘If I’d proposed solving the pension problem by compulsory euthanasia for every fifth pensioner I’d have got less trouble. By the end of it, I felt like the damn fox.’ Yet while the Act applies to England and Wales – with similar legislation passed in Scotland in 2002 – no such ban

Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution should be called ‘The Tragedy of Gordon Brown’

Murder Island features eight real-life ‘ordinary people’ seeking to solve a fictional killing on a fictional Scottish island. What follows is so confused and confusing that you can only imagine it was pitched to Channel 4 as ‘Broadchurch meets The Apprentice’ and nodded through as a result, without anybody asking such pesky questions as ‘So how might that work, then?’ Or if they did, that they were silenced by the news that Ian Rankin was signed on as the writer — whatever that might mean, seeing as most of the programme is necessarily unscripted and the investigation itself impossible to plot in advance. Tuesday’s opening episode began with the ordinary

Boris should keep copying Blair

Having written here at least once before that Boris Johnson is the heir to Blair, my first thought on the Prime Minister’s tax-to-spend announcement on the NHS and social care is a petty one: I told you so. The striking thing about making the Boris-Blair comparison is how resistant some people are to it. Among Bozza fans on the Leave-voting right, there is often fury at the suggestion that their man, the hero of Brexit, is anything like the Europhile they used to call ‘Bliar’. On the left, there is an almost pathological determination to believe that a Tory PM must, by definition, be a small-state free-marketeer intent on starving and

Tony Blair takes back control

Last month Steerpike reported news that Tony Blair was plotting a return to Parliament. One of the many unwanted consequences of Covid was the former Prime Minister’s return to the spotlight, in part due to the work of his eponymous institute on issues like mass testing and vaccines. With polls suggesting that members of Starmer’s Labour now view their party’s ex-leader in a more favourable light, could a ‘de Gaulle-style comeback’ be on the cards? Alas, the onetime premier – whose years out of office have been peppered with various gigs including JP Morgan, Zurich and UI Energy – appears to have now concluded that life as a septuagenarian backbencher is not for him.

What Starmer’s Blair bomb means for Labour

In a recent interview Keir Starmer dropped the B-bomb and Labour members are all a chatter about what it means. Speaking to the Financial Times the Labour leader said his party should be ‘very proud’ of what it achieved under Blair and Brown. As part of Labour’s campaign to regain power for the first time since 2010, Starmer believes the party should remind voters of the good it did when in government, and point out Labour’s successes in reducing poverty, improving the prospects of children and tackling climate change. This might seem a reasonable thing for the Labour leader to say. But for some on the far left of the

Tony Blair and the perils of long hair

Tony Blair must be starting to empathise with Samson this week. Can you imagine being a short-haired former Prime Minister, who on every rare appearance on the Today Programme and Remembrance Sunday has the Twittersphere baying for blood, demanding the police arrest him and send him to The Hague? Then he appears on ITV looking like David Ginola and everyone is tweeting, ‘gosh, look at his hair!’ Though I confess, he doesn’t look too bad, Delilah is still the patron saint of smart men. Should you be considering letting your Covid long locks play out, and avoiding booking a full grooming session at Truefitt & Hill, Trumpers or Pankhurst of London, then

A politician’s guide to non-denial denials

Michael Gove was deployed to the Commons on Monday afternoon to answers questions on the ministerial code, an hour-long appearance in which he was (inevitably) asked about that day’s Daily Mail splash: ‘Boris: Let the bodies pile high in their thousands’. An awkward question for any minister to handle, you might think, but the oleaginous Gove just about got away with it. Asked directly about the reports, the Cabinet Office minister gave a lengthy reply which contained this key passage to wriggle out of trouble again: Tens of thousands of people were dying. The Prime Minister made a decision in that meeting to trigger a second lockdown. He made a

Boris should heed Blair’s advice on the Covid vaccine data

We’ve known from the data from phase three trials that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have good efficacy against symptomatic cases of Covid-19. The data also hinted at near 100 per cent efficacy against serious illness, although the limited numbers of participants made it hard to be sure.  This morning, however, comes real world data showing the vaccines have all but eliminated hospitalisations. According to figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph, 74,405 people were admitted to hospitals across the UK between September 2020 and March 2021. Of these, just 32 were people who had received a vaccine at least three weeks earlier. The figures don’t reveal whether or not there

The greatest threat to Boris’s legacy

The government is starting to have an opinion poll problem, but it has nothing to do with any great threat from Keir Starmer or the Labour party. While the Tory ratings have gone from high to low 40s and Boris Johnson is not as extraordinarily popular as he was in January last year before the advent of the first dry cough of coronavirus, that’s not the issue of concern at all. On the contrary, the problem is that the Prime Minister may be getting addicted to favourable ratings and increasingly unwilling to put them in jeopardy by taking difficult or unpopular decisions. The latest evidence for this view came in

Blair’s back – and advising Tories on vaccine ID cards

When the Prime Minister mentioned ‘Covid status certification’ as part of his route back to normal life, one man must have enjoyed the moment. For Tony Blair it was yet one more little victory in his UK comeback tour, made all the sweeter because Boris Johnson was once a principal opponent of the idea of any ID card system. Blair has been pushing vaccine passports like nobody’s business. A recent paper published by his Institute for Global Change advocated that we carry ‘digital health passports’ on our smartphones, which we could scan on entry to bars, theatres and other places. If you don’t have a smartphone, the paper suggested, the