Tag Archives: tony blair

Martin Horwood writes …Tony Blair’s legacy

Tony BlairTwenty years ago yesterday Tony Blair became Labour Party Leader. The man who delivered a landslide victory for Labour in 1997 is now seen as a polarising figure in British politics.

Blair loved to be seen as a ‘modernising’ force in his party. Whether it was the abandonment of Clause 4, the drinks receptions for celebrities or leading a Government which was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, this was a world away from ‘Old Labour’.

As Prime Minister, however, there is no doubt it was his approach to foreign policy that defined his premiership.

Britain’s involvement in the illegal war in Iraq left a particularly indelible mark. Blair seemed to offer Parliament a choice. But his case was built on sandy foundations: his personal word that the intelligence case presented to MPs had not been exaggerated or ‘sexed up’.

Blair had used his own personal charisma to defeat opposition to his changes to the public sector and indeed to the Labour Party itself. He used this tool once again in making the case for the Iraq invasion, alongside a particular brand of political ‘spin’ that grew to typify Labour’s approach in office.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 40 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon AM writes: In praise of Freedom of Information legislation

Parliament ActsTony Blair’s latest comments about Iraq, seeking to defend his disastrous actions back in 2003, have generated extensive media coverage.  However, there are other views expressed by Tony Blair which also deserve attention, most notably his incredible views over freedom of information.

But, before examining his comments lets go back 20 years or so.

For some people it might be hard to remember how Government departments and public bodies often operated.  Holding onto vast amounts of information, however mundane or non-controversial, was considered totally appropriate by most Government departments, quangos and local …

photo by: -JvL-
Posted in News | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Opinion: After 150 years, the Gettysburg Address still matters

LincolnIt was just ten sentences long. A mere 273 words delivered in less than three minutes. Yet the Gettysburg Address has resonated through history, finding relevance in every age.

In May 2003, I was researching history in Los Angeles. The news channels had cleared the decks for just one story. One hundred or so miles to the south, President George W. Bush trying to define his own place in history.

The USS Abraham Lincoln was stationed off San Diego after a long deployment, including action in the Bush/Blair war in the Gulf. Beneath a banner of “Mission Accomplished”, a jubilant Bush told the assembled crew and an attentive nation that major combat operations in the Iraq War had ended. In a speech that lacked humility, he said: “We have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world.” Bush boasted of the precision of war, of how “new tactics and precision weapons the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.” Seemingly oblivious to the huge cost in human life, he declared that war against terror, against Al Qaida, was being won.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Good on Damian McBride – making the case for coalition government

damian+mcbrideI’ve met Damian McBride only once, in February this year. Two things struck me.

First, how much healthier (and happier) he looked than he did in 2008 when his role in a dirty tricks campaign against the Tories was exposed. He was only 34 when that furore flared, yet in pictures from the time he looked at least a decade older.

Secondly, he is seriously smart. A career civil servant promoted to Head of Communications at the Treasury he retains a deeply impressive knowledge of the knottiest tax policies. It makes …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Nick Clegg MP writes… The Labour and Tory exodus

Something is happening on the centre ground of British politics. An exodus. The Conservative leadership is being lured to the right. Ed Miliband is pulling his party to the left. Only the Liberal Democrats are holding firm.

That creates an opportunity for our party. Over the last twenty years the centre has become a crowded place. First New Labour pitched up, determined to demonstrate a new found credibility on the economy. Then followed a detoxified Conservative Party, hugging hoodies and frolicking with huskies. Yet now – in what, in time, may prove to be a highly significant political shift – the …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 80 Comments

Your essential weekend reader — my personal pick of the week’s must-reads

Papers - Some rights reserved by NS MewsflashIt’s Sunday morning, so here are a dozen of thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking juices, culled from all those I’ve linked to this past fortnight. You can follow me on Delicious here.

Immigration and the knowledge economy – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg makes the business case for immigration reform in the US, but the lesson is universal: “In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country.”

Mum did to Maggie what she’d done

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , and | Leave a comment

Thatcher, Blair and the Road to Serfdom

Among yesterday’s many predictable tributes to Margaret Thatcher on both sides of the house, one from Labour MP Gisela Stuart caught my ear. (Hansard)

Whole generations have forgotten what 1979 was like. I came here from Germany in the 1970s. I know that Margaret Thatcher would not want us not to learn any lessons from the battles that she had fought—some lost, some won, and some which continue. I am thinking in particular of the role of the market. It is interesting that Margaret Thatcher considered that Hayek’s book “The Road to Serfdom” should be compulsory reading. Many Government

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 19 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes… Ending unlimited care costs: an historic step

This Coalition is at its best when it is tackling the country’s long-term structural problems. That, after all, is why we came together with the Conservatives to form a Coalition Government and deal with the record deficit that we inherited from the last Labour government. Nowhere is this more evident than in today’s historic announcement to protect people, for the first time ever, from the threat of unlimited care costs. That is why I have been pushing relentlessly for this reform since my first day in the job in September.

For anyone doubting whether this is a truly “historic” announcement, …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

John Leech MP writes… Remembering the reasons for Leveson

The Manchester Evening News has a regular slot in the paper where they get a number of MPs to write an opinion column on topical issues of their choice. This week just happened to be my turn, so I thought that I would comment on the eagerly awaited Leveson report, due out on Thursday.

For those of you who don’t know, the MEN is owned by Trinity Mirror, and along with other major newspaper groups, are totally opposed to independent regulation of the press. They claim that regulation will be the end of freedom of expression. How ironic then, that the …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 8 Comments

David Cameron’s ‘a little and often’ leadership doesn’t suit him and isn’t Prime Ministerial

The Telegraph’s James Kirkup, one of that paper’s few fair-minded political commentators, has written a thought-provoking article, A devil’s advocate defence of David Cameron and No 10. His case for the defence is first, that we (public, media) shouldn’t assume the role of Prime Minister has always to follow the command/control style of Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair:

Implicit – and sometimes explicit – in the various critiques of the Cameron style and No 10 outfit is the idea that a Prime

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

Opinion: Is Tutu right on Tony Blair?

Like so many of us for whom the anti-apartheid struggle was a political awakening in the 1980s, I revere Bishop Desmond Tutu. A voice of humanity, moderation and forgiveness when there was every chance that South Africa’s transition could have gone very differently, Tutu combines unsurpassed moral leadership with no political ambition.

It was therefore with great interest I awoke on Sunday to Tutu’s call for Tony Blair to face the International Criminal Court on charges for aggression resulting from the 2003 Iraq invasion. Tutu goes on to question why Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe should go to the ICC whilst Blair …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 41 Comments

Opinion: Dear Progress, come in and have a nose around

In the run up to the 1997 election, Tony Blair led Paddy Ashdown up the garden path with a promise of a progressive alliance between a modern reforming Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Well, ‘fool us once’ and all that.

15 years later the Liberal Democrats remain a broad church. Orange Bookers, social democrats, Coalition supporters, Coalition sceptics, whatever Evan Harris is – there’s room for all of us.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 14 Comments

Clegg to embark on summer ‘bring on the hatred’ tour

Nick Clegg certainly isn’t one to shy away from voters, even at a time when the Lib Dems, he personally, and the government he’s part of are all suffering from unpopularity. Ever since Nick became leader he’s placed a premium on direct voter contact through his ‘town hall’ meetings. It was a smart strategy which not only earned valuable exposure through the local media, but also ensured he was much more prepared and ready for the televised election debates in 2010.

And this summer he’s setting off on a tour of 13 meetings at which he’s under no illusions he’ll be …

Posted in News | Also tagged | 20 Comments

LDVideo: What are your memories of 15 years ago today, 1st May 1997?

It’s exactly 15 years ago today that Tony Blair led New Labour to a landslide general election victory over John Major’s Tories, and Paddy Ashdown saw the Lib Dems secure the largest third party representation in the House of Commons since 1929. Here are three videos to remind you of a quite extraordinary night…

The exit poll predicts Labour’s landslide

Posted in YouTube | Also tagged , , and | 31 Comments

Opinion: LibDems are the natural home for Blairites

There have been some high profile (if not high level) Blairite defections to the Tories. While there are some similarities between the Blair legacy and our coalition partners, the defectees seem to have overlooked or discarded one idea – joining the Liberal Democrats.

As Jonathan Powell says in his book, The New Machiavelli, and as was evident during his time in office, Tony Blair was strongly pro-Europe. He understood, as we do, that a) the largest common market in the world is something that we should be actively engaging with and leading, and b) there are threats and issues …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 30 Comments

I agree with Tony. (Or why British PMs shouldn’t actually try and do Hugh Grant’s Love Actually PM speech.)

Perhaps it’s because it’s Christmas. Or perhaps it’s because the right-wing press is frothing with excitement at the Prime Minister sticking it to Johnny Foreigner.

Either way, the last few days’ events have put me in mind of the speech Hugh Grant delivers as a British prime minister (coincidentally called David) in the film, Love Actually. You can watch the clip I’m thinking of here.

It’s a knowingly funny pastiche of Little Englander pride in this country’s past glories, invoking cultural icons such as Shakespeare, The Beatles, …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Opinion: Labour’s problem

There’s been nothing dramatic about this conference season apart from a few gaffes, but under the surface, I think the Labour conference was significant.

While I enjoyed the Lib Dem conference, I don’t think the journalists did. Whenever I passed a well-known TV presenter, they had a face like thunder. They were looking for factionalism and controversy, but all they found was Lib Dems facing up to a difficult situation with determination and loyalty. That makes dull TV, so they must have been tearing their hair out.

The Tory conference was more entertaining.

Theresa May’s remark about cats, and the more recent

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 35 Comments

At his best and his worst: 5 thoughts on Tony Blair’s analysis of the UK riots

It’s only been four years since Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister (somehow it seems longer) — and he’s back today with an opinion piece for The Observer on the underlying causes of the riots, ‘Blaming a moral decline for the riots makes good headlines but bad policy’. Here are 5 thoughts on his article:

1) Mr Blair remains the ultimate triangularist

Witness the oxymoronic opening line: ‘Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband made excellent speeches last week and there was much to agree with in what they said.’ First, no they didn’t; neither speech rose to the occasion. Nick Clegg’s under-reported speech was a much weightier contribution than either the Tory or Labour leaders mustered. Secondly, to agree simultaneously with directly opposing arguments suggest that Mr Blair retains his crown as the past-master of intellectual flexibility.

2) Mr Blair remains at heart an authoritarian

As evidenced by his line, ‘my experience with the police is they need 100% backing’. Like all other professionals the police deserve respect and understanding for the immensely difficult job that they do.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 15 Comments

Explaining Cameron’s Coalition: politics as seen through the eyes of MORI polls

Explaining Cameron’s Coalition is the latest in the series of general election analysis by MORI’s Robert Worcester and Roger Mortimore, this time joined by two other authors. The book is therefore very much the tale of the 2005-2010 Parliament and subsequent general election seen through the eyes of MORI’s opinion polling, with an often pungent analysis which certainly fits Robert Worcester’s happiness to point out when he got predictions right and others got them wrong.

Though there is a smattering of references to polling results from other firms, the great strength of the MORI data is that many of the …

Posted in Books and Polls | Also tagged , , , , and | 2 Comments

Opinion: Do we really want to risk another media mogul running the country?

If there is one thing that the Murdoch affair has confirmed it is that politician’s lust for power knows no bounds. The acquisition of power has been likened to a heroin rush and judging by the extent that Blair, Brown and Cameron, particularly, have been prepared to jump to Murdoch’s commands – we must believe this to be true.

Although it is likely that an attempt to clean up politics will take place over the next few years, now that it has been made so clear that a media giant can have such an impact on the government of a nation …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Democrats didn’t just avoid Murdoch, we tried to cut him down to size

In my last post for Lib Dem Voice, I pointed out that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems had never courted Murdoch and his cronies.

Actually, that was just the half of it.

We didn’t just avoid him. We have tried, in different ways over a number of years, to cut the media mogul down to size and clamp down on the sort of abhorrent media practices that have been exposed of late.

As far back as 1994, the year before Tony Blair chose to fly to Oz to lick Rupert Murdoch’s boots, we were calling for the OFT …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , and | 38 Comments

The Independent View: What the Chilcott Inquiry has missed – the role of oil in the Iraq war

While change sweeps the Middle East and fighting escalates in Libya, the Chilcott Inquiry continues to consider the lessons of the Iraq war. The Inquiry has taught us more about the timing, process and legality of key decisions, but the elephant in the room remains the role oil played in those decisions.

“The oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it,” said Tony Blair in February 2003. His protestations were sufficiently effective that in media and parliamentary debates, raising the oil issue became a sure-fire route to losing credibility. And so Chilcott, who …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Kishwer Falkner writes… Libya: our common humanity crosses frontiers to protect those we do not know

As tyrannical regimes go, Libya is right there at the top and ranks alongside North Korea for the unpredictability of its ruler, the self-styled Colonel Muammar Gaddafy, who used to be referred to by Ronald Reagan as the Middle East’s ‘mad dog’.

Having given up nuclear weapons he is admittedly slightly better than Kim Jong-il, but we cannot know for sure that he has also given up chemical and biological weapons. In a country where tribal loyalties prevail and where the four main tribes occupy the main positions, Gaddafi’s own tribe occupies the top posts and much of his internal repression is carried out through a myriad of different state security institutions as well as a plethora of paramilitary units, recruited from abroad.

The country does not have a constitution, but is run by a revolutionary ruling council which has been in situ for 42 years and cannot be dismissed. There have been regular attempts at coups over this period, which have been ruthlessly put down and there are no evident pointers to a peaceful succession.

Gaddafi’s four sons have long been involved in jostling for the top position and foreign governments were betting on Saif al Islam (the second son) to take over the reins, as he was increasingly the acceptable face of the regime.

Saif al Islam al Gaddafi was awarded a PhD from LSE enticingly titled “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions”. He chairs the Human Rights Commission of Libya, and lest anyone doubt that he is therefore a soft touch, he was his father’s voice last weekend displaying a similar determination to stay in power through putting down the uprising till as he put it, the last man, the last woman, and the last bullet had been expended. He appears to be delivering on his pledge.

Several hundreds have died in the last few days, hospitals are overflowing and as a crackdown has started, anyone moving on the street is shot dead. Reports say that ambulances are also shot at to deter them from trying to save the injured. The air force has been mobilised to bomb civilian residential areas, and the reign of terror has started.

So what should be done now, that the country has descended into chaos?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , and | 13 Comments

Opinion: An historical comparison – the Big Society vs the Great Society

In the late 90s, Tony Blair’s New Deal deliberately adopted the name of US President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1930s programme to increase public spending, create jobs, and escape the Great Depression.

Thirteen years later, one assumes that David Cameron’s Big Society (that Jeremy Browne praised yesterday) at least partially invokes another significant American liberal reform era: the Great Society of President Johnson in the 60s.

I fear that substituting “big” for “great” represents a lesser moral ambition. The Kennedy-Johnson years in America were self consciously “a call to greatness”. Politicians talked of “new frontiers”, putting an end to war, conquering …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 16 Comments

Predicting the future: we didn’t turn Japanese

Shortly after the Conservative Party won its fourth general election in a row in 1992, a symposium met to consider the question of whether Britain – formerly a country with regularly rotating government between the two main parties – was turning into a political version of Japan, where the same party had been in power for nearly forty years.

Even between the event occurring and the publication of a book based on it, Turning Japanese? Britain with a Permanent Party of Government (eds. Helen Margretts and Gareth Smyth), political events in both countries had taken a dramatic turn. In Japan the LDP lost power, starting a period of much greater political fluidity with even subsequent LDP Prime Ministers struggling to restore their party’s previous dominance. Meanwhile in Britain the collapse of the Conservative Party’s economic policies following Britain’s enforced exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) quickly made the government appear very vulnerable, even if debates in Labour continued on whether, as John Smith preferred, one more heave was all that was needed or whether, as Tony Blair insisted on after John Smith’s death, a more radical reshaping of the party was required to win the next election.

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 5 Comments

Blair criticised by top civil servant for keeping Iraq legal advice from Cabinet

The Guardian reports:

The country’s most senior civil servant … said the cabinet should have been told of the attorney general’s doubts about the legality of invading Iraq before Tony Blair went to war.

“The ministerial code is very clear about the need, when the attorney general gives written advice, the full text of that advice should be attached “, Sir Gus O’Donnell told the Iraq inquiry.

The clear implication of his evidence is that Blair breached the code of conduct ministers have a duty to uphold.

You can read the full story here.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Opinion: Brown was deceived by his “friends” – let’s hope the Coalition is more careful!

In days of old, when Brown was bold (well, in 1992 anyway) he gave a stirring speech, as Shadow Chancellor, calling for a “powerful alternative to free-market thinking”. He clearly explained why regulations and strong institutions were needed to bring the City under control. Then, five years later he was catapulted into power by the Labour landslide, becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair’s government.

Tony Blair naively developed an undue admiration for what he romantically saw as the swashbuckling and flamboyant world of supposedly successful entrepreneurs, whose company he found flattering.  Gordon, alas, similarly fell for a charm offensive launched by the very people he once …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

LibLink: Nick Clegg – Poverty plus a pound isn’t enough

Over in The Guardian, Nick Clegg writes,

All governments promise welfare reform. Very few deliver. In 1997 Labour promised to “cut the bills of social failure” and to “make work pay”. But during its 13 years in office the welfare bill rose by 40% to £87bn. People moving into work can still lose more than 90% of every pound they earn: a punitive tax burden on the shoulders of the poor.

The real tragedy, however, is not the cost of the welfare system. It is the price paid by the most disadvantaged, too often condemned to a life on benefits. Nearly 1.9

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 70 Comments

How to defeat Al Qaeda

The cover of Bruce Riedel’s The Search for Al Qaeda shows a group of armed men working their way up a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley that stretches away to rolling hills. It captures the wonder and the tragedy of Afghanistan in one frame.

The book itself is similarly crisp, packing a wide-ranging history of Al Qaeda and its key figures into only 150 pages of moderate size print. It is penned by an ex-CIA man of thirty years service who was frequently closely involved with the figures and events painted in the book, but not so closely as to make the reader fear it is more a justification of his career than a fair account of events.

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 3 Comments

Just how bizarre will the Brown / Blair revelations get?

The more that comes out about how Tony Blair and Gordon Brown behaved (or perhaps more accurately, how Gordon Brown behaved towards Tony Blair) the more you wonder quite what world they were living in. Here, courtesy of The Guardian’s Nicholas Watt, is one of the latest revelations of the sort of behaviour that would get most people the sack but didn’t stop Gordon Brown getting the Premiership:

During tense negotiations over Britain’s EU budget rebate in 2005, the former prime minister became so exasperated with the Treasury that he kidnapped its man in Brussels.

Jonathan Powell, Blair’s former chief of

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , and | Leave a comment



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarT-J 25th Jul - 1:24am
    @David Evershed and Jedibeeftrix How far does the federalist idea extend? As far as the bonds of culture, economy and history can be extended. The...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 25th Jul - 12:46am
    They do what William Hague did - become very competent and then go off to make money :). Jokes aside, we do need more political...
  • User AvatarAndi Ali 25th Jul - 12:16am
    Stepehen Donnelly, the conditions will never be right for a peaceful settlement - Israel will see to that, Israel wants to steal Palestinian land not...
  • User Avatarjedibeeftrix 25th Jul - 12:15am
    good question, David, please let us hash this out now: how far do the lib-dem's envisage this federalism extending?
  • User AvatarAndi Ali 25th Jul - 12:11am
    You have to admire the people defending Israel? It's not easy defending a country who are murdering men, women and children in their hundreds, but...
  • User AvatarStephen Donnelly 24th Jul - 11:46pm
    I don't think that there is any merit in reinterpreting the past. That is not where a solution is to be found. Neither is picking...