Archive for ‘Tony Blair’

January 21, 2011

Protestors call for Blair to go to the Hague, as he faces Chilcot for the second time


Tony Blair returned to the Chilcot Inquiry for the second time today. He was there to iron out discrepancies between his evidence, and that of former Attorney General Lord (Peter) Goldsmith.


He arrived early, at 7.30am, to try and beat the protestors outside. Later, people from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and various other Stop the War Coalition types did came out, Bliar banners in hand. A CND spokesman did though concede that there was less of a presence than last time.  He also told VN that, despite the case not getting anywhere in 2003, pending the outcome of this inquiry, they would look again at getting the issue into the international courts.

VN is sure we saw former Lib Dem Leader Sir Menzies Campbell coming out of the Queen Elizabeth II Centre too!

Inside Blair was once again heckled, this time for saying that he “regrets deeply and profoundly the loss of life” caused by the war in Iraq. Families of soldiers who had died in Iraq shouted “too late”, in reference to his refusal to express regret for his decisions the first time he gave evidence. Blair said that his refusal to do so had been misrepresented.

Confident and fluent as ever, it seems the inquiry team were finding it hard to get at the former Prime Minister, and there were no real jaw dropping moments in his evidence. Trying to demonstrate his strong consideration for the legality of the war, and show his influence on the US, Blair reiterated that he had guided them into getting UN resolution 1441. He believed that this formed the legal basis for the war, and had instructed his negotiators at the UN to ensure it did. This view was not originally shared by Lord Goldsmith, although he eventually came around to agreeing, after seeing the 1441 negotiation documents.

Eight months before launching the invasion, Blair had told President Bush that he stood with them on taking military action. He repeated though that his case for war, unlike America, was the supposed presence of WMDs in Iraq, and the failure of Saddam to unreservedly allow weapons inspectors in. No such weapons have ever been found in Iraq. He said: “it wasn’t our policy to have regime change, it was our policy to deal with WMD issue”, although he wasn’t opposed to regime change if it was a way of dealing with the WMDs.

Mr. Blair also reiterated his fears about the ‘negative, destabilising’ presence of Iran in the Middle East.

By now most people have made up their mind on the Iraq war, and Blair’s appearance will do nothing to alter those who either agree with him that he is a ‘liberal interventionist’ who was protecting British interests, or those campaigners outside who believed him to be a war criminal who should stand trial at the Hague.

September 24, 2010

>Has Ed Miliband won the battle of the brothers in arms?

>Rumours are beginning to float around that Ed, not David, Miliband will be announced as the new Leader of the Labour party tomorrow afternoon. After Ken Livingstone’s victory in the battle to become the Labour candidate for London Mayor, perhaps this pressing of the political rewind button shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The older Miliband has been tainted with the Blair legacy, caught in the furore surrounding ‘the memoirs’, and frankly has not been forgiven for being a coward when he could have removed Brown.

VN will of course bring you the result and analysis when it is officially announced, but if the rumours are true it will be interesting to see how senior coalition members, particularly in the Lib Dems, deal with a genuinely left wing Labour leader. For now, a little tribute to the warring Milibrothers:

September 10, 2010

>David Miliband’s copy cat campaign highlights a deeper political problem

>The other day, the Tory Bear blog ran a story about its Editor’s experience having infiltrated David Miliband’s Movement for Change. This was not just a good read from a blogger not normally so compatible with VN, there is a more serious point for David Miliband than a Conservative infiltrator. After retiring his Tony Blair impression, Miliband D’s entire campaign seems to a very poorly concocted attempt to be Labour and Britain’s Barack Obama. ‘Movement for Change’ is no ‘Organising for America’. The point of OFA was that it engaged new people, all David Miliband has done is crammed the people who already support him into a room.

No, this falseness highlights a more serious point about politicians in general. How can the electorate relate to these people? The campaign teams may all have a crib sheet with the price of a pint of milk and a loaf of bread on it, but does anyone in the political sphere actually do anything, you know, normal? Can David Miliband tell you who is number one this week, or hum the the tune? Can his brother Ed name the three scorers for England against Switzerland the other night? Has Ed Balls read ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?’?

This is not to recommend that political leaders all sit down with a ‘zeitgeist tape’ of the type made famous by Malcolm Tucker and his hapless ministerial minions. Intelligence and dedication are traits to absolutely be admired, and demanded, in our political leaders.  It is about attitude. David Miliband fails this test comprehensively, even in comparison to his clone competitors for the Labour leadership. It is reassuring that Andy Burnham will be cheering on his beloved Everton against Manchester United this weekend, endearing that Diane Abbot can probably name the children’s’ crazes of the last few years, and actually possible to imagine having a row over a pint with Ed Balls. Even Ed Miliband seems to have some level approachability. But David? Look next to the phrase ‘political hack’ in a dictionary and you would just find his picture in place of a definition. 

This though is not a problem that just befalls the Labour party, or just David Miliband. There are Liberal Democrat MPs and councillors who enjoy nothing more than an evening pouring over the arguments for proportional representation, Conservative members up long into the night reminiscing over Margaret Thatcher’s legacy. This kind of politician disengages people from the democratic process more deeply than they can possibly realise, and it is a problem increasingly befalling street level political activists too. Which normal people would give up their weekend to deliver leaflets that nobody will read? Who writes amendments to the amendments for a motion to a party conference? Such people form the backbone of local political organisation, but it is near impossible for them to connect to the people who’s vote they are trying to win.

Perhaps tellingly the most successful British political leaders of recent times, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, do not quite fit this mould. Stop screaming at your monitors for a minute and think about it. Sure all these men were brought up in middle class comfort, but it is their attitude, not environment that makes them different. All were Oxbridge educated, but none were involved in student politics. They didn’t spend their time trawling for internships on W4MP, delivering the aforementioned leaflets, or obsessively attending local party meetings on a Friday evening. They were open to a multiplicity of influences. From the close friends from Australia, India and Africa Blair describes in ‘A Journey’, to Clegg’s travels due to his language studies, and even Cameron’s brief stint working for Saatchi, these three men entered politics after forming their opinions away from politics. Although it has manifested itself in quite different ways, their unconventional political entry points mean all three men have a natural instinct for change and reform. All three men brought their parties to power.

One of the things that led to Gordon Brown’s downfall was was an inability to look out of the political bubble. He was so deeply rooted in the Labour party and politics that he couldn’t connect with people not in that sphere. It is time for politicians to remember that their place of work is called the House of Commons. This has an implication of normality, an ability to separate oneself from Westminster Village and be a common member of society. It is not about class or upbringing, it is about attitude and approach. 

If Cameron and Clegg’s ‘New Politics’ is to mean anything, perhaps it should really mean a new type of politician. 

August 16, 2010

>Anti-Blair bile says more about detractors than him

>Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has announced that the profits from his new book, The Journey, will be donated to the Royal British Legion. It will be the biggest single donation the organisation has ever received.

Many have used this as an opportunity to Blair bash, calling the donation blood money. This seems to be disingenuous in the extreme. No, Blair doesn’t need the money. Yes, there is no doubt that Blair has a very personal guilt for a rightly unpopular war. However, it would impossible for a political leader of a nation such as Britain to enter office, let alone leave it, without having the upmost respect for the armed forces they had command over. Political feeling about the war should not degrade the generosity, sincerity, and necessity, of giving to this very worthy cause. 

The book was always going to be controversial, but criticism of this most generous of donations seems to say more about his detractors than it does about Mr. Blair himself.

August 11, 2010

>Do you remember this man?

>After being upstaged by Lord Mandelson, Tony Blair’s book is getting a massive plug. He’s even recorded a nice little video message:

Anyway, Blair’s book is out soon and love him or loath him it should be an interesting read.

July 20, 2010

>The Third Man

>In all the excitement over Lord Mandelson’s book, and Gordon Brown’s disappearing act, you might be forgiven for forgetting Comrade Blair also has a book out! VN recollects it being called ‘The Journey’ and will be picking up a copy in a bargain bin near you.

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