Mr Popular


The Telegraph is reporting that Cabinet Ministers are having a whip-round to buy a farewell present for Tony Blair. They are being asked by Sir Gus O'Donnell to cough up £80 to buy a gift valued at approximately £1,680.

Inevitably this news has inspired The Telegraph to ask its readers what they think would be an appropriate parting gift for the Prime Minister. The suggestions are fairly predictable on the whole but there are one or two gems in there. Reading through them it struck me that perhaps Blair should have included the readers of newspapers in his "feral beast" criticisms as well as the newspapers themselves.

Blair Watched


It seems that Tony is becoming a little looser at the edges as he continues his long goobye tour. It will be interesting to see if he does a Clinton and spends his final hours in a frenzy of last minute legislation and repaying of favours. Certainly his farewell honours list is going to make interesting reading.

He's just announced that he's discovered the source of current cynicism and disillusionment in Britain - It's the media's fault. Claiming that coverage isn't 'balanced'. Funnily enough he didn't single out The Sun but the Independent for particular scorn. I suppose calling the media a 'feral beast' is an example of the balance he's looking for.

He's also making hints about dealing with internet reporting that mixes news and comment, possibly looking for an online content regulator.

I guess we'll be hearing from them in due course. For our reply, We will refer the regulator to Arkell v Pressdram.

Taking Liberties Opens Tomorrow


Taking Liberties

No doubt many readers will have seen the banners and trailers for the film Taking Liberties on numerous blogs of differing political persuasions. We want to encourage anyone who can to go and see this film and, just as importantly, to persuade others perhaps less familiar with the decade-long assault on our civil liberties to go and see it also. Taking Liberties opens Tomorrow (Friday June 8) at selected cinemas. If enough people go and see it on the opening weekend then the distributors will push the film out wider and there is a chance of it reaching more people than just those who are already familiar with what Blair has done to our cherished freedoms. To find out where the nearest cinema showing this film is, check the website's cinema listings. For a review of the film, go over to Bloggerheads, and here are some more reviews from the MSM:

Here is the YouTube trailer:


If you are concerned about:

Then this film is for you.

We Are Not Amused


It's not just us who are fed up with Blair...

The queen has been left "exasperated and frustrated" at the legacy of Tony Blair's 10 years in power, friends have disclosed.

She has been "deeply concerned" by many of New Labour's policies, in particular what she sees as the Prime Minister's lack of understanding of countryside issues, her closest confidants reported.

It's gratifying to see we are in such illustrious company.

Boom Shake Shake Shake The Room


Tony has now given up all pretence of being a Prime Minister and is off on a permanent flag-waving jolly to see like-minded right-wingers (Sarko, Bush) and visit warzones.  This is apparently preferable to staying in London and doing, like, y'know, some actual governing (cf. running up to Sedgefield to announce that he was 'resigning', sorta).  Still, be thankful for small mercies, he can do less harm out there and there's always the possibility that he'll get in the way of something sharp.

Anyway, having turned up in Iraq and talked rubbish, repeatedly, about how wonderful the invasion was, security is improving and how swimmingly it's all going (of which more later) he rocked up in Basra to talk to Our Boys and inevitably the base was mortared.  The key point here is that they weren't even aiming at Blair, almost certainly, this is the usual shit that happens every day at the moment.  Basra is bandit country, a smugglers paradise, with the police in the pockets of militia and John Bull sitting in the middle of it with his thumb up his arse being patronised by the warmongers and shot at by everyone else.  Everyone knows we're leaving, everyone's just eyeing the main chance when we do.  What a godawful legacy, Tony.

The rest I'll leave to ARRSE:

A Positive Consequence of The Cash For Honours Scandal


Now that the police have handed their files of the cash for honours investigation over to the CPS and Tony Blair has announced the date of his departure, there will be some focus on his resignation honours list. We know it's going to be different from previous resignation honours lists.

Tony Blair's delayed resignation honours list will be the first by a prime minister to be approved by the House of Lords appointments commission before peers will be allowed to take their seats, it was revealed today.

Tony Wright, chair of the Commons public administration committee, disclosed that Mr Blair has agreed with Lord Stevenson, the head of the vetting body, to end the tradition that allows outgoing prime ministers to nominate peers without any checks on their suitability to sit in the Lords.

This might be a little disconcerting for those Labour party donors whose peerages were halted by the cash for honours scandal but who thought they might get them as Blair left office. It'll be interesting to see who makes it onto the list. Anyone care to speculate?

MTAS - Back To The Future

Finally, sense.  MTAS, the doctor's recruitment website that led to chaos and stress in the lives of  junior doctors (including my brother-in-law) is to be scrapped.
Actually, it's merely not going to be turned back on, having had the switch thrown a few weeks back.  It's hard to see what else they could have done in the circumstances.

This is rather overdue and isn't any reason whatsoever to conclude that a post-Blair government is going to be in any way sensible, but the failures of the system are the failures of Blairism.  In particular, inexpert use of technology to centralise and de-professionalise a potentially stroppy part of the workforce, leading to them become very actually stroppy indeed.  Long may it rot.  Next, NPfIT and ID cards, eh?  Damn, there are so many to choose from.

Further bloggage from the estimable NHSBlogDoc.

Tariq Ali and Davide Simonetti on Democracy Now - Two for the price of one ;)

We have been trying to make sense of what has come out of the trial of David Keogh, and Leo O'Connor, sentenced yesterday for 3 and 6 months respectively for the leaking of the al-Jazeera Memo. Obviously, 'events'* have rather taken over the story.  Some of what we know has been confirmed by the trial, but some things we thought we knew have become less clear.

What we do know for certain is that two men are tonight in prison, after a trial held largely in secret after being mercilessly pursued by a government in a futile attempt to protect what is left of the reputations of George Bush and Tony Blair.  Not only are we prevented from learning about what was disclosed in camera, but even comments made in open court, and information already in the public domain are the subject of a gagging order.

All on the basis of the principles outlined by, the prime minister's foreign policy adviser  Sir Nigel Sheinwald.

"...private talks between world leaders must remain confidential however illegal or morally abhorrent aspects of their discussions might be."

Davide Simonetti went down to record a brief piece for today's Democracy Now on the subject [29 minutes into the show], and we hope to round up what we do know, what we think we know, and what we don't know tomorrow.

*on the subject of 'events', and to further tempt you into watching today's Democracy Now - If you enjoyed Tariq Ali in today's Guardian, you can also see him in full swing if you start the same episode of Democracy Now 16 minutes into the show. Tariq is followed by the Sex Pistols, and then Davide...

Blair's True Legacy - "Lest we forget..."

In the midst of all the spin and kerfuffle, we should remember that our dear leader is not departing at a time of his chosing, or in a manner of his chosing.
The desperate and sickening stage managed performance yesterday was the mark of a man who could no longer hang on.  Loathed and detested in ways Thatcher could only aspire too, he has failed to serve the full 3rd term he wanted, and leaves with one word ringing in his ears:

And no matter how much he should try to disown it, it is the word that should be ringing in Gordon Brown's ears as he eventually hauls his carcass across the threshold of Number 10.

The 1000 Day Reich


What is it with Tony Blair and numbers?

On 30th september 2004 Blair started the resignation process with that assurance he would not seek a 4th term.
Yesterday he announced that he will leave us alone, on 27th June 2007.

Is this the longest, and most precise period of notice in history?  Because [not including the end date] that period is exactly 1000 days of notice. 

From and including: Thursday, 30 September 2004
To, but not including : Wednesday, 27 June 2007

It is 1000 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date

Or 2 years, 8 months, 28 days excluding the end date

Alternative time units

1000 days can be converted to one of these units:

  • 86,400,000 seconds

  • 1,440,000 minutes

  • 24,000 hours

  • 142 weeks (rounded down)

Still, only 47 days to go...

The Al-Jazeera Memo - Keogh and O'Connor Sentenced

The shameful misuse of the Official Secrets act to protect the reputations of Messrs Bush and Blair:

A civil servant and an MP's researcher were today jailed for leaking a secret memo about a meeting on Iraq between Tony Blair and George Bush.

David Keogh, 50, who worked in Whitehall's communications centre, was jailed for six months at the Old Bailey for breaching the Official Secrets Act.

The researcher to whom he gave the memo, Leo O'Connor, was jailed for three months on a similar charge for passing the document to his employer, the anti-war Labour MP for Northampton South, Anthony Clarke.

via email:


Al Jazeera Continues  to Seek Clarification on the Daily Mirror Report on the Alleged Memo Discussing Bombing Al Jazeera

Doha, Qatar – 10 May, 2007:

Al Jazeera continues to seek clarification on the Daily Mirror report of a leaked memo that alleged "President Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station Al Jazeera" and reiterates its call to see a copy of the relevant section of the memo. 
Civil servant, David Keogh and MP researcher Leo O’Connor were jailed today for leaking the secret four-page memo.  Press and public were banned from the trial which has been heavily criticized by MPs and civil rights groups.
The memo is purported to have recorded discussions regarding the events in Falluja between Tony Blair and George Bush in the Oval office in 2004.  Former defence minister, Peter Kilfoyle, stated that “There remain unanswered questions about the discussions about the attack on Falluja and subsequent deaths of many hundreds of civilians”.

Al Jazeera submitted a Freedom of Information application early in 2006 requesting the disclosure of the contents of the memo but the request was denied.
Any substantiation of the contents of the memo would be extremely serious not only for Al Jazeera but for media organisations across the world.  It would cast significant doubts on the US administration's version of previous incidents involving Al Jazeera's journalists and offices. Both Al Jazeera’s Kabul Bureau and Iraq Bureau were bombed by the US resulting in the death of Al Jazeera journalist Tareq Ayoub.

Al Jazeera reiterates its request for clarity on the matter and urges Downing Street to clarify the Daily Mirror report on the contents of the memo.


More from Davide tomorrow.

A Good Day To Bury Bad News


Let's keep an eye out for what slips under the radar:

ID Card cost rises to over 5 billion - Funny, the figures were released as Tony was speaking, a month late...

Please leave finds in the comments and the BW team will update this thread.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi


Courtesy of Beau Bo D'Or

Forgive the Latin title but I think that this is the best way to convey the sense of irony I feel when looking back on Tony Blair's decade in office. It means, of course, "Thus passes the glory of the world" but the vernacular doesn't do it justice. There will, no doubt, be plenty of political obituaries being written about Tony Blair and after ten years of his leadership, there are so many aspects of his tenure in office that only some of them can be covered here. This obituary isn't just for Blair but also for the political system he helped to undermine.

As Tony Blair prepares to leave Ten Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister, it is us, as well as him perhaps, who are emerging into the sunlight blinking after such a period of darkness. I fear the euphoria will be short-lived. Anyone who has driven on the Autostrada in the mountainous regions of northern Italy will tell you, you emerge from one tunnel into bright sunlight before almost immediately entering another. Similarly, we are exiting the long tunnel of Blair only to enter what seems almost certain to be the much shorter tunnel of Brown. A tunnel it will be nevertheless, but one where the light at the end of it is visible. After that, the tunnel of Cameron seems likely to follow, and its length at this time is unknown.

Though not perfect, the tunnel analogy does I think illustrate part of the problem we have had with British politics since Margaret Thatcher took office in 1979. A pattern seems to be emerging with a strong idealist of one party staying in power for far too long followed by someone to continue their policies who serves a much shorter term until he in turn is replaced by a strong idealist from the opposition who remains in office for far too long. Thatcher claimed Tony Blair and New Labour to be one of her greatest achievements. Certainly she created the climate for Blair, and Blairism can be seen as a continuation of Thatcherism - both 'ideologies' make use of the same economic theories. Blair in turn is taking credit for the reformation of the Conservative party under David Cameron. The two great opposing parties are merging into one homogenised entity where, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter which one takes power and the theatrics in Parliament are just that.

Was it always this way? I don't think so. There used to be much more of a distinction between 'left' and 'right', now the terms are all but meaningless and voters have little to choose from in terms of policy and instead base their selection on personality or looks. This may be described by some as "winning the argument" but we are all the poorer for it as democracy is the loser.

Blair came to power on a wave of optimism. Finally the sleazy, selfish Tories were cast out, and with such a huge majority, Blair had a mandate to bring in some real positive changes. Alas, it wasn't to be. In order to win the election, Blair pledged to stick with Tory spending plans for the first two years. The first promise he broke was the one he made to the Liberal Democrats in order to gain their support which was to seriously look in to the possibility of introducing proportional representation for a more balanced and representative Parliament. In the 1997 election manifesto was a commitment to hold a referendum on electoral reform. One look at the size of his majority cast that idea into the long grass.

The first stories of sleaze didn't take long to materialise but Blair (still referred to as 'Bambi' in some newspapers) was able to turn on the charm and convince most people of his 'honesty'. His over-the-top lamentation over the death of "", Diana, didn't raise too many eyebrows back then. It was the obsession with spin that first took the gloss off of New Labour. It was something that made them an effective opposition but was quite unsuitable for a party in government. As Cool Britannia morphed into Rip-off Britain the spin coming from Downing Street was always apparent.

There were some seemingly positive aspects of Blair's time in office at first. The introduction of the minimum wage and a huge injection of cash into the NHS that was, for the most part, swallowed up by wage increases. The situation in Northern Ireland has improved under Labour too and the new power-sharing deal can be called historic, but in Blair's speech there was no mention by name of the late Mo Mowlam who brokered the Good Friday agreement, although he did pay tribute to John Major who had the courage to start negotiations with the IRA.

The privatisation of public services continued under Blair and Labour gave away far too much power to big business letting the market drive everything as the Tories did. Introducing so many a target-driven systems inevitably lead to corruption and short cuts. Education and the NHS suffered as a result. Blair inherited an economy in reasonably good shape from the Tories. After 18 years of misery, they had finally managed to turn things around and unemployment was lower and so was inflation. Blair took the credit for this and managed to continue the trend for a while. But again, this progress is deceptive. Unemployment continued to fall in the beginning of Labour's tenure, but the jobs on offer were and are largely insecure and low paid McJobs that do nothing for social mobility.

The Tories would never have gotten away with the privatisations in the health service and education that Blair has undertaken, and 'Old' Labour would never have dreamed of carrying out these 'reforms'. By doing them under 'New' Labour, the public could be convinced that these changes were for the better. Tony Blair in this respect seems to be like a Trojan Horse put into the ranks of the Labour party in order to do the things that the Tories couldn't. The Tories protest about Tony Blair, but he has carried out their policies and done them a favour because he will take the rap for the inevitable failings of these policies allowing them to claim that they can do better. When they return to power they will merely continue the process started by Thatcher and take it to new depths now that Blair has done the difficult bit for them.

From the start of Blair's tenure as leader of the Labour Party, he sought to seduce big business. His party needed support and cash and by selling access, and later peerages, the money rolled in. It was only a matter of time before Labour got rumbled for this and a large part of Blair's legacy will be the cash for honours investigation where he became the first Prime Minister to be interviewed by the police in a scandal - twice. The cash for peerages scandal was yet another miserable milestone of the Blair premiership. Even more shocking was the decision by Blair to halt the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into the corruption surrounding the BAE - al Yamamah arms dealing with Saudi Arabia. This has done immense damage to Britain's international standing and the country can no longer criticise corruption abroad and be taken seriously.

What Blair will be remembered for mostly is, of course, the Iraq war. Up until then the electorate were pretty forgiving but all that changed with the lies leading up to the illegal invasion and the chaos that followed it. By ignoring between one and two million people on the streets of London he showed a contempt for the wishes of most people in Britain. He only got support for the war by exaggerating the supposed threat from Iraq. When the falsehoods about Iraq's WMD were exposed, it lead to the highly suspicious death of the prominent scientist Dr David Kelly and an inquiry that was an obvious whitewash. The only resignations from this saga were from the BBC which became emasculated as a result. The worse the situation in Iraq got, the more exposed Blair and New Labour became. Blair focussed on preventing any meaningful discussion on the war either in Parliament or through further inquiries.

Of course the Iraq and Afghan wars were just the latest in a series of campaigns that Blair either participated in or supported. In 1998 Britain bombed Iraq with the Clinton administration, in 1999 it joined in the bombing of Serbia. Britain backed the attack on Chechnya by Russia under Vladimir Putin. And in 2006 Blair wholeheartedly supported the Israeli assault on Lebanon. While Blair made loud claims to be supporting democracy and freedom, his government backed repellent regimes like those in Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Colombia. While Indonesia was attacking Aceh province in 2003, Britain was supplying weapons to it. On a more positive note, the sending of British troops to Sierra Leone in 2000 did help end the civil war there.

Part of the fall out from the Iraq war was the continued disenfranchisement of young Muslims in Britain furious at Britain's involvement in the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan and its unqualified support for Israel and refusal to speak out against the atrocities committed against Palestinians. An already high threat of terrorism got much higher and on July 7th 2005 the first suicide bombings in western Europe took place in London killing 52 people and maiming hundreds more. Blair resolutely refused to to equate this event with his foreign policy and lies were trotted out to cover the incompetence of the security services who had been following at least two of the bombers. The government still refuses to hold a public or independent inquiry into this event.

What has happened though is an unprecedented attack on the long-held civil liberties of Britain. Under Blair Britain became a surveillance society with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the world. Demonstrating outside Parliament became illegal without prior permission from the police. Despite all opposition against the idea, Blair pushed hard to impose ID cards on us all with biometric information and all details about us (including medical) easily accessed by government departments as well as fraudsters. The right to trial by jury is being eroded, habeas corpus has been suspended.

Yet despite all these measures, Britain is no safer according to the same government who introduced this Draconian legislation. We are constantly being told of numerous terror threats against us. Whether real or exaggerated, the population is being kept in a state of fear and therefore more likely to accept even more erosions of civil liberties.

Crime and punishment were obsessions with Blair, particularly when it came to anti-social behaviour. During his tenure 3,000 new criminal offences were created. Since coming to office there have been 53 law and order bills. Unsurprisingly this had led to an explosion in the prison population in Britain making it the highest in Europe at about 80,000 compared with the 50,000 it was when Blair took office. The severe overcrowding in Britain's prisons has led to proposals to build more of them and loud calls to cut the prison population.

Part of Blair's obsession with punishment can be put down to the relatively new phenomenon of government by tabloid. Blair, more than any other Prime Minister, has been heavily influenced by the tabloid newspapers, particularly The Sun. Rupert Murdoch helped formulate the public opinion that got Blair elected and has since had a hold on him. This has resulted in knee-jerk legislation coming from New Labour every time a grizzly story hits the headlines. For all his enthusiasm for the law, Blair has been quite happy to twist it to suit his agenda. We've seen him do this in the case of the Chagos Islanders. Similarly, the courts were used to prevent three Britons from suing Saudi Arabia for torturing them after pressure from the Saudis.

Under Blair democracy itself has come under pressure. Blair introduced a series of gimmicks designed to create the illusion of increasing democracy in Britain, the results have been the opposite. New voting methods have led to electoral fraud. Just about every petition on the Downing Street website has been ignored, including one with over a million signatures. We've heard 'The Big Conversation', we've also seen an 80 year-old heckler manhandled out of a Labour Party conference and we've seen a woman arrested for reading out the names of people killed in Iraq. The Terrorism Act is used as a catch-all to prevent any sort of dissent. There was even an attempt to pass a law allowing further laws to be made without Parliamentary scrutiny called the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Although a good performer in Parliament, Blair was never much of a parliamentarian, his style was always more presidential and tried to push through controversial legislation with a minimum of debate. From early on in his premiership he relied more on unelected advisers than on cabinet ministers. He changed Prime Minister's Questions from twice a week to just one 30 minute session. Accountability to Parliament has become an issue now. Before Blair came to power, the slightest whiff of a scandal would result in a resignation. Now Parliament is regularly misled and resignations are few and usually by disgusted politicians rather than scandal-ridden ones. When scandal has forced the resignation of politicians, they often reappeared shortly afterwards as in the cases of Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett.

People have become more and more disillusioned with party politics as they see little difference between the party in power and the opposition. And when Labour was re-elected in 2005 with just 22 percent of the electorate, the need for electoral reform was highlighted as never before. Britain now has the lowest voter turn-out in Europe when it comes to general elections. Voter turn-out has fallen from 72 percent in 1997 to 60 percent in 2005.

On the international stage, Blair's credibility was severely undermined by his closeness to the Bush administration and his inability to criticise it no matter what atrocities it committed or supported. Guantanamo was merely "an anomaly". In many cases it seems that Britain was actively involved in abuses. This is evident by Britain's close collusion with the USA in 'extraordinary rendition' with the UK being used as a stop-over for CIA flights taking abducted people to countries where they were tortured. Britain's denials of any involvement have proved to be false and the lack of co-operation with the subsequent investigations is a matter of record.

Internationally Blair became known as Bush's poodle and this label reflected Britain's position as little more than a client state of the USA. In this 'special relationship', Blair has allowed the USA to sack British Ministers, to rewrite his speeches in America and Blair had to ask permission from Bush before embarking on diplomatic missions. The isolation of Britain and the United States became glaringly apparent during the Lebanon war where Britain and America alone with Israel opposed the rest of the world which called for a ceasefire.

Another legacy of the Blair era is the sharp divisions in society which he failed to address. Under Blair, there has been an 'economic apartheid' with child poverty among ethnic minorities much higher than the rest of the population. And the inequalities don't stop there. Recently there has been a string of reports highlighting the inequalities in Britain which has the second highest child death rate among the 24 richest countries in the world. Child poverty in Britain is increasing and a recent UNICEF report showed Britain's children to be the unhappiest, most neglected and poorly educated among the world's 21 richest countries.

Like Blair, Gordon Brown refuses to tackle the issue. Social mobility in Britain has effectively been frozen so there is even less opportunity for people to climb out of the poverty trap. The introduction of University tuition fees (that Blair had originally said would not be introduced in his election manifesto) frightened off many poorer students from furthering their education because of the huge debts they would be saddled with for much of their working life. So much for "education education education". Under Blair the gap between rich and poor has widened considerably.

Will things improve under Gordon Brown? Superficially possibly but somehow I doubt there will be any real improvement. Brown is one of the architects of 'New Labour' and another fan of Thatcher. While he has been happy to hide and let Blair take the flack for New Labour's failings, he himself is behind many of those failings as we saw with the recent pensions scandal. Brown could have threatened to resign (or be sacked) over the Iraq war if he was as opposed to it as has been reported by David Blunkett. A high-profile resignation like that of the chancellor of the exchequer would have had a huge impact on Blair's credibility earlier on and might have changed the policy. Instead he chose to go along with something he knew to be wrong. That says much about his character.

Right from the beginning of Blair's long departure, Gordon Brown has been portrayed as the only viable replacement. Most of the other potential candidates are broadly similar in political outlook to Blair with the only one offering an alternative set of policies being John McDonnell. Needless to say, this threat to the status quo has been pretty much marginalised by the media. New Labour seems determined to carry on regardless of the failures of its policies. Blair, no doubt, will see this as as a sign of his lasting legacy and maybe it is but it's not one to be proud of.

So what next for Blair? There has been plenty of speculation as to what Blair will do next. The most common view is that he will tour on the lucrative lecture circuit, but there have been plenty of other rumours too. Some speculate that he will work (or rather continue to work) for Rupert Murdoch, others think that he might get a job at the UN or the European Union. Perhaps he might want some ambassadorial role which will give him some needed diplomatic immunity from potential prosecution. He may start off by taking one of the freebie holidays he has become notorious for (the Italian media has dubbed Blair "Lo Scroccone" - the scrounger) although they might be harder to come by now. Whatever Blair does I hope he is never again given the amount of responsibility and power he had as Prime Minister of the UK. While it still seems unlikely he will be prosecuted for war crimes, it isn't a total impossibility and a one way ticket to the Hague is what is hoped for by many.

The Happiest Man in Britain


Click on the photo for a brief summary of our views on the forthcoming coronation.

Blair: The Countdown Begins


Tony Blair will stand down on the 27th June.

He made the announcement in a speech to party activists in his Sedgefield constituency, after earlier briefing the Cabinet on his plans.

Now that Blair has made his announcement we can expect a plethora of eulogies to his time in office. The BBC has already started. As you'd expect, we have a few things to say about the Blair era. Our obituary to Blair will follow shortly.