Tony Blair

Hans Blix on Blair, the Chilcot report and the state of play before the Iraq war

In the months preceding the invasion, the UN inspection force that I headed had carried out some 700 inspections without finding any WMD, and in the months that followed investigators from the US came to the same conclusion. If the aim was to eradicate WMD the bloodshed, death and destruction has been meaningless. How convinced were the leaders in the US and UK of the existence of the weapons in the days and weeks before the war?

In a telephone conversation with Tony Blair on 20 February 2003, I suggested it would prove absurd if 200,000 troops were to invade Iraq and find very little. I spoke at that time after many hundreds of inspections – including dozens to sites recommended by US and UK intelligence – had yielded no evidence of a WMD programme.

Blair responded that the intelligence was clear: Saddam had revived his WMD programme. However, the French president, Jacques Chirac, had a different view. He told me and the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, that he thought there were no WMD and that the various national intelligence agencies had “intoxicated” each other when sharing information. They had. In addition, the cautionary question marks they sometimes provided had been replaced by exclamation marks at the political level.

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Corbyn shaping up to have Tony Blair investigated for war crimes

Terrorist hugging communist Jeremy Corbyn is shaping up to have Tony Blair investigated for war crimes.

Tony Blair has said it would be a “very dangerous experiment” if Jeremy Corbynor a populist politician like him were to form a government.

In an interview with the BBC, the former Labour prime minister said populist politicians, whether on the left like Corbyn or on the right, were worrying and he spent a lot of time thinking about how people in the centre should respond.

Blair famously said last summer that anyone thinking of voting for Corbyn as Labour leader because it was what their heart told them to do should “get a transplant”, but his latest comment may be his harshest yet.

Speaking to Emily Maitlis for BBC2’s This Week’s World, Blair rejected the suggestion that he was responsible for Corbyn’s emergence as a political force. He said it was “a result of the way the world works these days”.

He said: “It’s a big challenge for the centre and, when I’m not thinking about the Middle East, I’m thinking about this because I do think, by the way, it would be a very dangerous experiment for a major western country to get gripped by this type of populist policymaking left or right, a very dangerous experiment.

“I do think the centre ground needs to work out how it gets its mojo back and gets the initiative back in the political debate because otherwise these guys aren’t providing answers, not on the economy not on foreign policy.”

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Cameron copies John Key

John Key’s play book is now being deployed by David Cameron.

Tom Harris at The Telegraph explains:

Nothing disconcerts politicians more than when their opponents intrude on their territory or, as a more recent political analogy puts it, when the other team parks its tanks on their lawn. By penning a column this week for the staunchest Labour-supporting newspaper in the country, the Daily Mirror, David Cameron has signaled his intention to set up a permanent settlement in Labourland.

To Labour voters more committed to the EU than their own leader seems to be, this is audacious stuff. In fact it’s simply another move lifted directly from the Tony Blair playbook. Remember when he and Gordon Brown, still in opposition at the time, flew to the other side of the world in order to court Rupert Murdoch? The tactic worked then, and Labour should worry that it’ll work now.

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The demise of Europe’s left

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The left-wing is in disarray world-wide.

We are witnessing the demise of the once proud Labour party in New Zealand, and world-wide the left-wing seems in disarray. This is particularly obvious in Europe.

The Economist examines the demise of the left:

Early in this century you could drive from Inverness in Scotland to Vilnius in Lithuania without crossing a country governed by the right; the same would have been true if you had done the trip by ferry through Scandinavia. Social democrats ran the European Commission and vied for primacy in the European Parliament. But recently their share of the vote in domestic (and Europe-wide) elections has fallen by a third to lows not seen for 70 years (see chart 1). In the five European Union (EU) states that held national elections last year, social democrats lost power in Denmark, fell to their worst-ever results in Finland, Poland and Spain and came to within a hair’s-breadth of such a nadir in Britain.

Elsewhere, it is true, the centre left is in power: as an unloved and ideologically vague junior party of government in Germany and the Netherlands and at the helm of wobbly coalitions in Sweden, Portugal and Austria, all countries where it was once a natural party of government. In France, President François Hollande is plumbing new depths of unpopularity and may not make the run-off in next year’s presidential election. Matteo Renzi, Italy’s dynamic prime minister, is in better shape but his party is still losing support (and possibly, in May, Rome’s mayoralty) to the Five Star Movement (M5S), an anti-establishment party founded by a blogger. Former municipal and regional bastions like London and Amsterdam, Catalonia and Scotland have slipped from the traditional centre left’s grasp.

Where are all the votes going? Many have been hoovered up by populists, typically of the anti-market left in southern Europe and the anti-migrant right in the north. But alternative left parties (feminists, pirates and greens, for example), liberals and the centre-right have also benefited. And so has the Stay On The Sofa party.

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Sanctimonious hypocrite finally admits he was wrong

Paul David Hewson aka Bono Vox has been a sanctimonious hypocrite almost his entire life, certainly since he got fame and wealth and decided to lecture us all.

Well he has finally got a hold of senses and woken up.

He has spent years haranguing governments to increase public spending on aid, claiming it would end world poverty.

But Bono has finally changed his tune, admitting that the way to solving extreme poverty is through trade rather than aid.

In a remarkable turnaround, the rock star has told business leaders it is the private sector that holds the key.

The U2 singer, whose real name is Paul Hewson, was instrumental in persuading politicians including David Cameron to pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of the country’s income on aid.

But speaking at a UN aid conference in New York, Bono acknowledged that the private sector has a bigger role to play in development than governments.

Addressing business leaders, he said: ‘I’m late to realising that it’s you guys, it’s the private sector, it’s commerce that’s going to take the majority of people out of extreme poverty. And, as an activist, I almost found that hard to say.’   Read more »

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Judith Collins on Corbyn, and winning the centre

Judith Collins joins the commentary over Jeremy Corbyn:

Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s staggering rise to the top of the ranks in the British Labour Party, all I am hearing from pundits, commentators and ‘political strategists’ these days is that elections are won and lost in the centre. If they keep on saying it, it must be true, right?

Pah. What rubbish. Elections are never won or lost in the centre. Yes, the vast number of voters are in the centre but they won’t bother to change their vote (much less get out to vote) unless they actually have something to vote for. Mobilising the centre to move to the left or to the right, is what wins elections. If you want to stay in power, then the centre is what keeps you there.

Thanks to Corbyn, the British Labour Party now has 260,000 new members. These people were galvanised into action because they saw something worth getting out of bed for. For them, Jeremy Corbyn is a breath of fresh air offering an alternative viewpoint, even if he is deluded. And that’s what politics should be about – a contest of ideas, policies and views – even crazy ones.

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It’s a simple question…Did you shag the pig or not?

Spinmeister Damien McBride explains the predicament David Cameron is in after “evil” Lord Ashcroft decided to spill the beans.

As a spin doctor, there are two phone calls that make your heart sink: the one from a journalist relaying some excruciating allegation about your boss’s personal life or past history; and the second, the call you have to make to said boss in order to work out your response.

Working for Gordon Brown, a man of Victorian sensibilities and a volatile temper, the second call was invariably greeted with the single word “What?!” repeated with increasing volume and violence as I recounted the misdeed of which he had been accused. Even so, I’d conclude with the essential question that all spin doctors must ask in these situations: “What’s the truth?” Not, “What shall we say?” or, “How do you want me to handle it?” but instead the absolute insistence on knowing the full, unvarnished facts before deciding whether and how to spin them.

Sometimes, especially with Brown, that question provoked an angry barrage of abuse, as if just by asking it, I was implying the allegation might be true. That was good. That was what I wanted to hear. With other politicians, celebrities and friends I’ve advised over the years, you’d instead hear a dread pause, then a hesitant, “Well…”. That’s when you know you’re screwed.

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A worthy goal, perhaps John Key might like to mimic it

Dan Hodges thinks that David Cameron and George Osborne are trying to wipe Labour off the political map.

A worthy goal to say the least, but they are now being helped by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s leader.

In the final days leading up to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, I received several calls from Tory ministers and backbench MPs. They were a bit like football fans whose team is on the brink of promotion, but still can’t quite believe they will secure the final extra point needed to go up. “It isn’t really going to happen, is it?”, one minister asked me. “They aren’t actually going to do it?”

“Yes,” I replied, “they really are going to do it.”

And they did. Those who view Jeremy Corbyn as a divisive figure are being a touch unfair. There are few politicians who could have managed to get both Diane Abbott and David Cameron rooting for their election.

All of this analysis has been conducted along conventional political lines. How big a majority can the Tories now hope to secure in 2020? Can they grind Labour down so much that a Tory victory in 2025 is all but inevitable?

To which the answers are “as big as they like” and “yes”. But these are not conventional political times.

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Ok so now Corbyn is leader, what happens next?

Well whatever happens and how it is perceived depends very much on what side of the political fence you sit on.

One thing is for certain though…irrespective of your political persuasion is that bloodletting is about to commence.

This was not a good result for the Left. The unalloyed ecstasy will last for about 20 minutes, and then natural events will take their course. On the extreme Left, that natural course is for victory to produce, first, factional argument over who actually lays claim to power, rapidly followed by accusations of betrayal and ideological impurity, and ending with purges, coups and counter-coups. And that’s what happens when something small is at stake: the editorship of a Trotskyist publication, or the running of a protest organisation. Given that we are talking about the fate of the country’s main opposition party, the bloodletting should be awesome.

It will be awesome indeed as the purges in the Labour Party start. Already many front benchers have resigned, some just a few minutes after the announcement of the result.

The bottom line though is that the Labour Party is dying.

[I]n truth, it would not have mattered whether Corbyn had won or lost. His campaign has allowed the Left to install itself into the heart of the party’s mechanisms. And it was able to do this because Labour is dying as a national force. The Corbyn phenomenon did not represent a resurgence of interest in the Labour party: it represented a collapse of interest in it. Almost no one was involved in this or even taking it seriously – apart from the hard core Old Left (some from within, but mostly from outside the party), a handful of extremely well-organised, self-serving trade union leaders, and a cohort of very young enthusiasts who know almost nothing about grown-up life.

The great mass of real people (especially working class people) has fallen away, and it is their absence that has allowed these tiny activist minorities to take control of the abandoned entity formerly known as the Labour party. That is why the real story of this leadership election has not been the triumphal march of Corbynism – which simply rushed in to fill a vacuum – but the uninspiring mediocrity of all the other candidates. Here is the puzzle: why couldn’t a party which had so recently performed an electoral miracle of historic proportions come up with a more impressive stable of aspirants?

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Labour in the UK is seriously poked now

They really did it, the fools in the Labour Party in the UK, despite getting beaten in the last election with a left wing candidate as leader, have now chosen a complete and utter communist as their leader in the forlorn hope that they think he will be the one to convince the voters they were wrong.

They are complete fools and Matt Chorley at the Daily Mail tells us why:

Social media has given us so much already. Cat videos. Rage Against The Machine at number one. Kim Kardashian. And now Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

The Twitterfication of politics – previously capable of triggering little more than micro-climate storms like #CameronMustGo and #Milifandom – is now complete.

But winning the internet and winning over Britain are two different things.

A month ago Alastair Campbell claimed that the rise of Corbyn was like the way the public suddenly weighs in behind the likes of Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis.

But he was wrong. Both women could sing and went on to shift millions of records.

Corbyn, on the other hand, is Steve Brookstein, who won the very first series of X Factor.

At 36, he was older than your average pop star but his cheeky chappie style and gravel tones won through.

Winning the internet and winning over Britain are two different things.

In the final in December 2004, he won six million votes. His first single sold just over 100,000 copies.

Within eight months of his momentous, hype-fuelled victory, he was dropped by his label. Within two years he was singing on a car ferry leaving Portsmouth.

It turned out that on a Saturday he could win a popularity contest among a self-selecting group of voters. But people didn’t want to buy his records.

And Britain will not buy Corbyn’s softly spoken versions of songs which failed to trouble the charts in the 1970s and 1980s when he first sang them.

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