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May 17, 2007

Gordon Brown – the 'Unity' leader?

It’s that time of year when A-Level Politics students sit down and are faced with the question:

I have no idea what their answer should be. The question should really ask:

Gordon Brown and Jack Straw tried to explain how the Labour Party had had its say. In reality, the coronation of Gordon Brown is identical to the way in which the 1922 Committee used to elect the leader of the Conservative Party, before they realised democracy was healthy.

Within Labour, policy had long been ceded by the party conference to the party leader(s), but that was taken on the chin because at least the party members got to decide who those leaders were.

But the party’s MPs closed ranks around one candidate who offers little difference from the last one. Technically, the trade unions and constituency parties can still nominate someone to be leader. Only their choice is either a) Gordon Brown, or b) Gordon Brown.

Gordon Brown outside the offices of Bloomberg, today.As well as defending the election farce, Gordon Brown also veered straight towards the Rumsfeldesque at times. He repeatedly spoke about how the electorate would be able to have their say in “the next period…erm…of time”. Has he just stepped off a Tardis? I could forgive him saying this nonsensical thing once, but over and over? Oh dear.

Nearly 90% of Labour MPs nominated Gordon Brown for leader. Of the other 10%, about half abstained and half voted for John McDonnell. Gordon Brown thinks those numbers are representative of the party he leads. He thinks he’s the “Unity” candidate. He’s probably wrong, and the blogosphere at least seems to indicate disaffection may be high.

Mr Brown could have stopped this. He could have told more MPs to vote for McDonnell if he really wanted a contest. In fact, he could have just not tried instead of putting a determined three-line whip on MPs who were supposed to be loyal.

He’s shot himself in the foot. Labour Party membership is already very low. How many will leave the party now, knowing that the only vote they’re going to get is in the vanity contest for the non-job of Deputy Leader?

May 14, 2007

A new era for British–Franco relations?

Two men, from similar political backgrounds, with similar political views. Yet one is mocked by the British as the archetypal miserable Frenchman, while the other represents a great new hope for relations between his country and ours.

The Times’ Washington correspondent, Gerard Baker, wrote that:

Having endured years of Gallic disdain, contempt and hostility, America is getting used to the happy possibility that France might actually be a friend and even an ally again.

Sarkozy and Blair, 11th May 2007Given Britain’s ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ relationship with the United States in recent years, the election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the Élysée Palace also permits a thawing in relations between Britain and its neighbour.

The bonhomie exhibited by Mr Blair and M. Chirac this week was tinged with the disdain that the two statesmen have held for each other ever since Blair burst onto the European stage with his brand of slick, demanding diplomacy in 1997. But when he met M. Chirac’s successor (right), things were very different.

Perhaps M. Sarkozy’s warmth was helped by the knowledge that his British counterpart will not long be in a position to demand things of Europe. The infamous rebate will surely come up again in time, and Mr Brown is known to be a more passionate defender of Britain’s subsidy from Europe than Mr Blair has been.

Yet there is little to suggest things will be frostier when the Scot moves to Number 10. While he may not be the Europhile that Tony Blair is, he and Sarkozy may find their mutual Atlanticism to be a useful asset.

An infamous Sun front-pageSarkozy’s nicknames include ‘Sarko the American’ and ‘Speedy’ (a sign of his apparent hyperactivity, apparently). Both seem to be traits that Gordon Brown is moving towards. The steady hand on the economic rudder will likely be replaced by a fervent Prime Minister, keen to exert control quickly over ‘his’ government while making constitutional changes to win over the people. His ability to sit on the fence was demonstrated well in his recent book, Courage. It features a delicately balanced portrayal of two Americans, two Brits and two Europeans.

Denis McShane – former Minister for Europe – painted a picture of a European tricycle, with Brown, Sarkozy and Merkel perched on each wheel. It’s a convincing image. With Iran and Syria seeming to pose the only foreign threats to this balancing act, on foreign affairs the leaders of Europe’s major industrial nations are generally united.

But will this new-found Euro-love permeate into wider society? Britons’ ridicule of all things Gallic has become something of a cliché. The optimist would suggest that better relations between our political leaders might help to rectify this over time. Certainly the tabloid front-pages accusing the French of being “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” might be a thing of the past if co-operation at a political level succeeds.

Of course, Sarkozy will only be a success if he solves the numerous domestic conundrums that he promised in the election. But rebuilding relations with Britain and America could be an even greater prize for his country in the long-term.

May 12, 2007

Wishful thinking

This was a genuine screen-grab from CNN International.

Adam, I hear there may be a vacancy going…

May 11, 2007 – not very inspiring

GB’s launched his new website to win over… er, GB. isn’t the most inspiring website ever seen, for the following reasons:

1) There’s a blog written by Oona I love you Gordon, can I have a seat in the Lords, pretty please King, who if you need reminding, was beaten in the general election by George Galloway. The second staged contribution comment came from ‘skabucks’ who thanks Gordon for doing so much to help in the Welsh Assembly elections in Cardiff North. That’s the same Cardiff North that Labour lost to the Tories, despite it being quite a winnable seat.

2) As part of Gordon’s Big Conversation (oh no, we can’t call it that, Tony tried it and gave up) we can have our say on the important issues of the 21st Century in Gordon’s poll. So this week, the question is: What should this site be talking about this week? Is it a) The NHS, b) Education, c) International Development or d) The Economy. Obviously Gordon’s decided to tackle his least confident topics first. Strangely absent are e) Iraq, f) House prices, g) Tax and h) Immigration.

3) The front page features a poorly compressed photo of Gordon surrounded by adoring kids. Well, mostly adoring. One or two look scared witless, but they’ve probably just been told how much their university tuition will cost.

4) In a brilliantly original feature, you can Follow Gordon around the country. This is remarkable similar to Guido Fawkes’ Where’s Gordon? feature which asked the same question during the elections when he was remarkably quiet.

5) My favourite page is the Policy one. It benefits from Gordon’s signature, some ‘values’, and a warning about how bad the Tories are. But seemingly no policies…

6) I LOVE the Terms and Conditions. They’re a hotbed of irony. Especially this bit: “Also, we want the debate to be civil, so posts that use offensive, racist or homophobic language won’t go up.” I wonder why they singled out racist and homophobic but not sexist or xenophobic…

Apart from that, it’s lovely. Completely devoid of anything useful, but lovely nonetheless.

May 10, 2007

Tony's Resignation Speech: Live Blog

Tony Blair gives his resignation speechSo, he’s going, and it might be even sooner than we thought. The atmosphere at Trimdon Labour Club is pretty hysterical – there’ll probably be tears and there’s already dancing by one woman. Nutter.

11:57 Philip Gould, Blair’s polling expert, is ignoring the idea of “lowering expectations”. Apparently after this speech the whole country will be moved, and start to wonder what we’re missing out on. Wishful thinking, I think. Intriguingly he says: “I think people will be surprised”. Ten more years! Ten more years!

11:59 Anyone know how many people are allowed in Trimdon Labour club according to the fire regulations? I reckon they’re on the upper limit.

12:00 Blair’s agent John Burton introduces the Prime Minister.

12:01 Caption of the morning was on BBC News 24: “Blair: Today is a special day”. Someone suggested there might be 26 hours or something.

12:03 And the PM’s on the stage.

12:04 Joke #1: The person shouting ‘four more years!’ outside Trimdon Labour Club wasn’t on-message for today. He’s paying tribute to his agent.

12:05 And here’s the shock announcement: He loves Cherie. Nope, that’s not it.

12:06 “Today I announce my decision to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party… On the 27th of June [Wednesday] I will tender my resignation… I’ve been Prime Minister for ten years – I think that’s enough.”

12:08 “I was born almost a decade after the Second World War. I was a young man in a social revolution. I reached political maturity as the world was ending and the world was going through a revolution. I looked at my own country… strangely uncertain of its future. All that was symbolised by the politics of the time. You stood for individual aspiration and getting on in life or social compassion and helping others. You were liberal or conservative. You believed in the power of the state or the power of the individual. None of it made sense to me. It was 20th Century ideology in a world approaching a new millennium.”

12:09 In my opinion, he’s done better speeches than this before. It’s better suited to a Labour Party Conference than a small hall of 300 people.

12:10 “No country attracts overseas investment like we do”. I think China would have something to say about that. And they wouldn’t be alone.

12:11 “Britain is not a follower. Britain is a leader” – So far, the tone’s been fluffier than a set of furry dice.

12:13 Blair’s bearing his soul to the country now. How he put the country ahead of himself, and sometimes even his party.

12:17 He’s moved on to talking about Iraq, terrorism, and how he had to make the decisions he did.

12:19 “I ask you to remember one thing: I did what I thought was right. I may have been wrong – that’s your call. But believe one thing if nothing else. I did what I thought was right for the country”

12:20 “I’ve been very lucky and very blessed. This is a blessed country. This is the greatest nation on earth” – he’s saying things he daren’t have said before.

12:21 And his last words? “Good luck”. That’s it. Less than eighteen minutes. His conference speech last year was probably a little more emotional, but in this one he really showed his colours.

Ten years and ten days later…

Blair waves goodbyeIt’s time for Tony Blair to leave the stage. It’s been ten very interesting years, starting so well, but ending so badly.

This week saw a ray of light at the end of five years of difficulties. Northern Ireland will hopefully be Tony Blair’s legacy in office – he’ll probably try and achieve a similar feat in the Middle East once he leaves it.

His other legacy is to leave his successor a clone in opposition. David Cameron is Tony Blair in blue clothes, and this could be his Achilles Heel in the 2009/10 election.

For his party, Blair leaves behind a group of people who will find transition difficult. Despite the lack of real opposition, Gordon Brown will find he needs to get his party behind him while reaching out again to the centre ground that elected him and his friends in 1997. This week it was suggested David Miliband is holding fire until after the next general election. Others may be less patient.

Blair’s reputation was irretrievably damaged by Iraq and its aftermath. It’s a war he probably still doesn’t regret, but might come to in the years to come.

The next few years will be a time of great reflection for Mr Blair, as well as for the party he leaves behind.

Translate: Translate into French

May 06, 2007

Clutching at Straws?

From today’s Sunday Times:

David Cameron would win a general election by 54 seats, based on voting patterns in last week’s local elections, according to a study published this weekend.

The world and his dog know that local elections are used as protest votes and are always worse for the Government than a general election.

There’s not much here for Tories to crow about.

Lib Dem Failure = Lib Dem Power

It’s a strange quirk of the electoral system in Britain nowadays that the Lib Dems can do fairly poorly at an election and come out of it with so much power. In both Wales and Scotland, they hold the keys to power for Labour and the SNP respectively. The only difference this time round is that they’re considering rejecting the easy option in both cases.

In Wales, leader Mike German, under a great deal of pressure from his members (a leadership election is more than likely) has to decide, perhaps within a week, whether to prop up an unpopular Labour administration headed by Rhodri Morgan. He seems keen, but he could be deposed before he has a chance to sign off on it.

In Scotland, Nicol Stephen has a similar decision to make for the Lib Dems, although they would at least be propping up the SNP, who are on the up themselves. Even then, the SNP would still need the Greens to form a majority. The Greens support independence. The Lib Dems do not, and it could be a deal breaker.

Even in Westminster, it’s an open secret that the Lib Dems could have to do a similar job for Gordon Brown (or Cameron) after the next election.

It’s almost becoming the case that the Lib Dems are the bland, faceless party of coalition. They don’t seem to be threatening to lead any coalition in the near – perhaps even distant – future. And when elections become closer between the top two parties, their share of the vote often collapses.

There’s something to be said for coalition governments. But when the Lib Dems are so predictably the partner in any coalition, is there any value in voting for them?


My view is that there’ll be another election in Edinburgh within the year. The SNP’s majority is so flaky they’ll struggle to govern. Hold a new election and they’ll probably do even better. In Wales, Labour and the Lib Dems are going to struggle to come to a deal. Many in the Labour party are dead against joining with Plaid, and the Tories are of course a complete no-no. It’s going to be iffy here too.


I (honestly) wrote this before reading Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer. He makes the exact same point.

May 05, 2007


ITV have scheduled an exciting episode of Emmerdale Family Album this Thursday at 7.30pm.

If they show it, I’ll eat my hat.

May 03, 2007

Election Night Live Blog

I’m blogging live through the night, taking in the election results from England, Wales and Scotland. Sat in my Dr Evil style lair, I have access to the video feeds as they come in. Mwah ha ha!

05:17: It’s getting light in Cardiff now. And where is the light shining? Well, nowhere really. Labour haven’t done as badly as they could have done, but no-one’s really taken all the spoils either. In Scotland, there’s a sense that the SNP could be doing a bit better, but things might change when the regional votes come in. Ooh, it’s like Eurovision.

05:05: The BBC’s man in Glasgow has given the red card to the election. Holding two elections under different electoral systems has caused predictable chaos. Meanwhile, the BNP are causing a rumble in North Wales. They’re probably going to be narrowly short of getting a seat via PR. Screaming Sophie Howe (for that is how she usually speaks) lost in Cardiff North – the Tories making a big breakthrough.

05:00: The sun’s rising in London. Not in Cardiff yet.

04:56: Nearly there. A torrent of results has turned into a trickle. In Scotland a number of results have been delayed by various technical problems. In Wales just over half of the results are in (almost all of the constituency votes are counted) and it’s looking fairly good for Labour. The BBC are predicting 26 seats for them, 14 for Plaid Cymru.

04:26: I’m still here – not fallen asleep. Far from it – results have been flying in and I’ve been busy! Huw’s just gone for a mistimed toilet break it seems! All Lembit Opik can be positive about is Jenny Randerson, which has to be the safest Lib Dem seat ever – hardly a model for anywhere else.

03:22: Jenny Randerson’s been elected AM for Cardiff Students… er I mean Cardiff Central. A ray of sunshine in a not particularly spectacular evening for the Lib Dems.

03:11: Alex Salmond wins his Gordon seat from the Lib Dems. Big sense of relief on his face. But will he be the First Minister tomorrow? Possibly not. It’s worryingly close and his speech has acknowledged it -‘victory’ may not mean the same thing as it did a few hours ago.

02:51: Odd quote of the night: “We don’t share your bones” – David Dimbleby to Rhodri Morgan. Thankfully the Merthyr result’s been confirmed.

02:49: My sources reckon Labour have held Merthyr. Thank goodness for that – Blamerbell/Ciaran was promising to streak if Plaid won.

02:47: The old is beating the new. ITV’s pen-and-paper method is getting Welsh results on screen faster than the Beeb’s fancy computer system.

02:45: Would you believe it? Tony Blair’s going to go out on a high. The BBC predict their share of the vote in England has gone UP by 1% since the last local elections. The Tories are up 1%, Lib Dems and Others both down 1%.

02:38: Have the Scots been turned off by the thought of independence? Their poll ratings aren’t translating into seats. They’ll be placing a lot of hope on the regional lists.

02:01: ITV Wales viewers only saw the first Welsh result on the screens at the back of the newsroom. It was on BBC Wales, BBC Scotland and S4C.

01:56: Blimey, is it that late already? Things are slow in Scotland – confusing ballot papers seem to be slowing down the counts there. The SNP aren’t doing very well in the constituency votes, but are more than making up for it on the regional lists. In short – they’ve still got a chance of winning. In Wales, it’s too close to call, and we’ve had no news of results. Bor-ing…

01:35: Bit of a lull. Tiredness kicking in. Spoilt ballot papers in Scotland look like becoming a bit story to chew on tomorrow. John Reid’s heaped praise on Gordon Brown, but declined the chance to say he definitely wouldn’t stand against him. I reckon he’s bargaining for a juicy cabinet position. Like keeping his current one.

01:14: The first gain for the SNP tonight. They’ve taken Dundee West from Labour. An emotional acceptance speech from the new MSP, who had a swing of 16%.

01:11: Rhodri Morgan is telling downright fibs. He told Huw Edwards he was unprepared to speak about possible results because he’d only just arrived at City Hall in Cardiff. Nonsense. He’s been there for nearly half an hour. He was on ITV Wales from the same location at about 12.45!

01:00: Love it. Blamerbell (A.K.A. Ciaran) just accused Huw Edwards of exaggerating his Welsh accent. Ciaran, you’re supposed to be improving your job prospects tonight, not shafting them!!!

00:47: A very high level of spoiled ballots in Scotland – 3.7% in first constituency – suggest there’s problems with the new ballot system.

00:40: Nothing’s going right in Scotland. A boat carrying ballot boxes from Arran has broken down. A rescue mission’s been launched to fetch them. BBC Wales have also resorted to a musical interlude.

00:34: At last, a result that matters. Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell is re-elected. Big swing to the SNP though.

00:30: So little is happening, ITV Wales has gone for a musical interlude. Presenter Lucy Owen is wearing quite a revealing outfit. Must be the most enjoyable coverage on offer.

00:19: A beautiful moment – Sian Lloyd on one channel, Lembit Opik on another at the same time.

00:09: Still no results yet. Polling’s been delayed in Edinburgh West after someone smashed a polling station with a golf club. Someone’s feeling vengeful before the votes have even been counted.

23:58: Blamerbell is as smug as a bug after getting a plug from Huw Edwards. The first results are imminent.

23:51: How do you work out which election is most important? Simple. Who’s got the biggest studio. BBC Scotland’s is enormous. BBC Wales isn’t far behind. And BBC in England? Shoved in a corner of the Newsnight set.

23:44: Is it my imagination or is BBC Swingometer Man Jeremy Vine already losing his voice?

23:42: ITV Wales kick off. And Goldie Lookin Chain are on the sauce.

22:35: Jack McConnell’s seat may be the first to declare. The Scottish First Minister has one of the safest seats in the country.

23:32: I’ve been looking for a non-alcoholic drinking game to go along with tonight, and I’ve found one. How often will the word ‘wee’ be used in the BBC Scotland coverage? As in “a wee majority”.

23:27: Huw Edwards has taken his jacket off. A little premature as the first results aren’t expected for another 90 minutes. In Scotland, Douglas Alexander is still on. He’s admitted to being in “a state of ignorance”. Like most of his fellow Labour MPs?

23:20: Jamie Owen is doing his Loyd Grossman routine in the Senedd. Who lives in a house like this? Huw, it’s over to you.

23:16: Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander, just likened winning votes to ‘pushing product’. Either he’s been dealing drugs or taking after Sir Alan.

23:06: And we’re off in Scotland, with a bit of trance music from the BBC. At least it will keep us awake. Turnout up about 10%. First result in an hour.

23:01: First indications from Llandudno that Labour’s traditional support hasn’t been holding up. Last time it was the constituency that gave Rhodri his win. This time, things will be nailbitingly close.

22:41: BBC Wales kick off with their coverage. Shiny studios, shiny graphics, and a shiny Huw Edwards. Apparently it’s “very close” and we shouldn’t go to bed for at least six hours. Thanks, Huw.

22:30: The count in the Western Isles constituency of Scotland will be postponed until tomorrow because of a helicopter breakdown. The ballot papers will have to be shipped and should arrive tomorrow lunchtime.

22:19: Lembit Opik is at BBC Wales, according to Blamerbell. Sian Lloyd is at ITV Wales. Such a shame we won’t see an on-air reunion on election night.

22:12: BBC Wales has a cavernous studio, presumably borrowed from Dr Who. ITV Wales’ studios are slightly less Tardis-like. Goldie Lookin Chain will be dropping in later to offer their insight. Can’t wait.

21:40: I know what you’re thinking. Why do these elections matter? Well, in Scotland we’re expecting to see the balance of power shift completely in the direction of the Nationalist SNP. Such a shift could well lead to a referendum on full independence in the next four years, the biggest political decision in Britain for centuries. In Wales, less historic notions are being contemplated, but a shift towards the nationalists and the Conservatives is likely. The coalition government will look rather different in a few hours, but not dramatically so. And in England, as in every election, the vote will be seen as a referendum on the Government, and as such, will almost certainly see gains for the Tories. In less important news, I’m eating a baked potato.

21:30: All quiet on the Western front. And the Eastern one, for that matter. We’ll get some sort of news in half an hour, but the first results aren’t expected until gone midnight. In the meantime, there’ll be plenty of gossip and nonsense.

I’m being paid to do this for someone else at the same time – I’m not sad enough to be doing it just for the hell of it.

May 02, 2007

Does John Major like David Cameron?

John Major writes an interesting piece in today’s Times. Interesting for what he doesn’t say, as much as what he does.

You might expect, a day before local elections in England and slightly more important ones in Wales and Scotland, that there might be just a little bit of electioneering going on. There is, but not much. The best he can really manage is:

it is once again becoming an exciting time to be a Conservative. Most of our party understand that we will only win if we recapture the centre ground as well as holding the centre-right.

...which is more navel-gazing than soap-box. You don’t expect the finest flowing rhetoric from Major, but he could have tried a little harder.

His article is a criticism of Labour spin – an argument that set sail long ago, really – but many of his criticisms are as easily applied to his successor-but-three, David Cameron. He says:

new Labour only has sound-bites and apparatchiks, careless of constitutional proprieties, who will use any unscrupulous trick to benefit the Government

...but replacing Labour for ‘Conservative’ and Government for ‘opposition’ doesn’t really stretch the imagination. David Cameron himself is the Master apparatchik, regularly employing unscrupulous tricks and gimmicks at PMQs. Admittedly, he’s not had time to prove a disdain for the constitution, but that’s much easier to try from the opposite bench.

Which begs the question… if John Major dislikes spin so much, and in his retirement can maybe see through partisanship a little, does he like Mr Cameron? His Conservatism seems, from the available evidence, pretty detached from that of the 1990s, when Major was in charge. But on policy it’s probably fair to assume they’re still not very far apart. In style however, they are Ying and Yang, Beauty and the Beast, Pete Doherty and Cliff Richard.

Some of his criticisms are notably not aimed at the government, but are a broader view of British political parties. Is he tempted to make his views of Cameron more explicit, or does he not need to?

April 28, 2007

Elections are Rubbish

Is the biggest talking point of this week’s local elections (in England, at least) rubbish? The newspapers, at least, are fuming about fortnightly collections and snooping wheelie-bins. Believe the hype, and it alone could bring down many Councils.

In some European countries, bins are collected daily or every other day. So why are we going in the opposite direction?

Because a) it’s environmentally friendlier and b) we don’t (yet) have temperatures that make festering rubbish such a problem.

Oh, and c) it’s cheaper. Local councils have been squeezed and squeezed for well over twenty years, and the only thing they can do is cut services or put up council tax.

Put the typical Daily Mail reader in a local council and ask them what they’d do. Given the limitations on how councils can spend their money, is there actually anything they could do better? Independent councillors and UKIP say they’d increase rubbish collections. They are in the lucky(!) position of not having to carry out their promise.

Grumpy Joe Public hate only a few things more than fortnightly rubbish collections: higher council tax is definitely one of them. What they forget to realise is you have to have one or the other.

But once tabloid newspapers find a bandwagon, common sense becomes irrelevant.

March 30, 2007

What if we were in Iranian waters?

I probably won’t make myself popular for saying this… But what if the British sailors were in Iranian waters?

I’ve been troubled by some of the Foreign Office language, which is vague enough to leave room for admitting they were wrong. For instance, we’ve heard about the exact spot where the sailors were captured. But we’ve not been shown the line that they took before that. What if they accidentally went into Iranian waters, then returned to Iraqi waters, and were then captured. Essentially, both the British and the Iranians would be in the wrong. The Britons for having been in Iranian waters, and the Iranians for having gone into Iraqi waters to detain them.

If what we’ve heard is true, the Iranians were in the wrong because they should have shepherded the sailors out of their waters – there is no need for them to have been detained under maritime law.

Compare a British news report with one on an international news website. There is often a subtle difference in language. The British media take MoD statements as fact, while there’s more emphasis on ”...the MoD claim that the sailors were in Iraqi waters…” in international reporting.

My concern is that we’re only hearing half of the story. This is largely because the Iranian regime is disfunctional, secretive and has a lot to hide. But I wonder whether the vacuum of information from the other side means that we’re getting information which isn’t as high-quality as we’re led to believe.

Would our media ever decide something the Iranians said was correct and that something the MoD said was incorrect? It seems very unlikely.

We, understandably, want our sailors back. The MoD, understandably, would never want to admit that they made a mistake in relation to Iran. Foreign relations are too sensitive to give them any ground on such an international stage.

And the Iranians have, for sure, acted wrongly by detaining the fifteen, putting two of them on television, making them read admissions of guilt and denying consular access.

But what if we did cock up? Would we ever find out the truth?

March 28, 2007

Politics Quiz

The Labour Party has had four leaders between 1990 and 2007. Who were they?

Is Blair about to rewrite his foreign policy legacy?

Writing about web page,,2044281,00.html

From today’s Guardian:

Tony Blair is pushing the United Nations to declare a no-fly zone over Darfur, enforced if necessary by the bombing of Sudanese military airfields used for raids on the province, the Guardian has learned. The controversial initiative comes as a classified report by a UN panel of experts alleges Sudan has violated UN resolutions by moving arms into Darfur, conducting overflights and disguising its military planes as UN humanitarian aircraft.

Iraq undid all of the good work Tony Blair had done in foreign relations before 2001, notably in Kosovo. Cynics will say his embryonic plans for Darfur are nothing more than an attempt to change people’s perception of him, but they should be ignored.

The West should have gone in much earlier, but hopefully the ‘classified report’ will prove not to be another dodgy dossier. If it’s correct, a no-fly zone should be a minimum requirement for the UN, and if they won’t agree to it, then Britain alone. This isn’t Iraq all over again.

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