Is Gordon Brown the new Ted Heath?

Ted Heath’s attitude to Margaret Thatcher was famously called ‘the great sulk’.

Gordon Brown looks like emulating Ted Heath, as his veiled swipe at Tony Blair evidences. 

In giving evidence today to the International Development Select Committee meeting, when asked about the failure of African leaders to restrict themselves to two terms in office, he said,

“People make it clear, as I have, to some of these leaders that if they say something and then are not in a position to deliver it then their authority is affected by that,” he said.

“But I think it is very difficult for us to impose a rule on African countries that we do not apply ourselves,”

“It is difficult for us to say, when sometimes in our countries people serve long terms, that there should be a limit on the terms. The real issue is keeping promises.”

Not veiled at all. A fairly obvious dig at Tony Blair.

My loss of respect for Tony Blair

I never voted for him or his party, but admit to thinking at the time, early on in his premiership, a sneaking admiration for the man. Putting the wars to one side, even at the time of his resignation I’d still a grudging respect for him.

Now, however, my respect for Blair is all gone.

This respect hasn’t been lost from all the scandals, the wars, or the failed policies. The reason is simply that he knew what a disaster that Gordon Brown would be as prime minister, and did nothing about it. He knowingly let it happen. His cowardice in not confronting this issue is the most telling failure of his premiership, and the thing that I can least forgive him.

A prime minister leads the country, should have the nations best interests in mind, not to do so is the highest dereliction of the office.

Tony Blair only touches on his dysfunctional relationship with Gordon Brown in his book – A Journey. We’re learning now just how shambolic was Gordon Brown’s premiership, as Martin RosenbaumDavid Hughes, and Iain Dale report.

Labour are about to elect a new leader from the group of cabinet ministers who let the shambles continue, as David Hughes reports on ex-home secretary Alan Johnson’s remarks,

Alan Johnson, the former Cabinet Minister, recalled: “You just heard every day of blood on the wall. No one could be around in politics in a senior position and not know that there were big problems over at Number 10.” So there we have it – an intimidating, brooding presence who went into rant mode at the drop of a hat. Not a pretty sight.

What a chance missed by Labour, to elect a leader who wasn’t in Gordon Brown’s cabinet. The new leader, whomever it is, will be tainted by serving under Gordon Brown.

There’s a wipeout, and there’s a Blairout

 Tony Blair is everywhere. It’s a complete Blairout.

The first three pages of today’s Daily Telegraph are devoted to the contents of Tony Blair’s book. They named six or so journalists as contributing to the story. I guess that means they bought a whole pile of books and told each journalist to read a chapter and extract the ‘juicy’ bits.

I’m not sufficiently interested to read the whole three pages, but the parts I’ve read lead me to conclude that Blair knew what a disaster Gordon Brown would be as PM, and yet did nothing about it. Dreadful. Read Iain Dale’s comment, and tell me you don’t agree with him.

My conclusion: Tony, it would have been better had you not bothered, and offered us a few revelatory fireside chats instead. I didn’t think you’d end up lower in my esteem than before, but you have. Criticising the Queen, such lese majesty. Doubly dreadful.

Here are a couple of critiques on the book:

  • Again, from the ever insightful Jim Pickard in the FT’s Westminster blog, that TB’s no great shakes as a writer either.
  • Ed Howker in the Spectator’s Coffee House blog concludes that Blair is a weirdo.

Hard to disagree with Ed Howker’s conclusion, and no, I’m still not buying the book.

Media in a tizzy for Blair’s, A Journey, public less so

The press and media seem to be in an awful tizzy over the publication today of Tony Blair’s book – A Journey.

The hype around the book has been astutely manufactured by the book’s publisher’s, Random House. These are smart marketing people. They’ve kept information about its content to the absolute minimum, so that the media, who hate not knowing, have been kept excitedly expectant.

I’m less certain that the general public are as interested, whom I imagine are wise enough about Tony Blair to be chary about him selling them anything. Sure his apparent generosity in donating all proceeds from the book to the British Legion is to be applauded, but then again announcement of this was surely part of the marketing hype. Poor Tony, he can never win.

If you’re interested, here’s a sample of the coverage on Tony Blair’s book launch,

  • Channel 4’s politico Gary Gibbon hears that the final chapter might be uncomplimentary about Gordon Brown.
  • The Daily Mirror is happy to knock the books prospects.
  • The Financial Times’ Jim Pickard inquires intelligently about whether the book answers some difficult questions.
  • BBC News political editor Nick Robinson wonders how it’ll affect the Labour leadership voting.
  • Finally, Iain Martin in the WSJ provides an amusing bluffers guide to the book.

The clever publishers have said there’s no newspaper serialisation, and that means journalists and commentators will have to buy the book. I’ll not be buying a copy, as I’m sure stuff from it will be all over the media for days. My current reads are about mastering photography, since I’ve recently upgraded to a serious camera.

Is this the reaction Tony Blair hoped for?

An initially magnanimous gesture from Tony Blair to gift the profits from his book – A Journey – to the Royal British Legion, that on more careful examination appears, to some, less so.

The lack of clarity about the nature of the gift is the cause, whether it includes Tony Blair’s advance, reputed to be over £4 million, or just his royalties from the book, a figure far smaller.

I’m wondering what reaction  Tony Blair was expecting from his gift. Because it hasn’t received the unqualified support he might have hoped for, as these comments show,

However, I think I was right on one thing, the timing of the gift was aimed to boost sales of the book, as the Guardian reports. It also reports the British Legion stating that Tony Blair’s gift categorically includes his publishers advance on the book.

I hope, as I’ve said before, that Blair’s magnanimity is genuine. Perhaps it’s ‘show me the money’ time.

Tony Blair exceptionally generous, but why now?

It’s certainly exceptionally generous of Tony Blair to gift his advance payment and all royalties on his book, A Journey, possibly over £4.5 million, to the Royal British Legion.

But cynic that I am, I ask why now, and not at the time he left office in 2007, or the moment he announced that he’d be writing a book.

I came up with a number of reasons. Firstly, he’s only prepared to donate his advance after securing plenty of mazuma from speaking engagements and other fee-earning activities, so the loss of income is felt less.

Next, methinks it’s a grand way to promote the book to get it to the top of the best seller lists, which will do two things, feed his vanity and prolong his fee-earning from speaking engagements.

Perhaps I do him a disservice in my cynicism. I’d like to think I have, but remain unsure.

Ministers warned Blair over Iraq

This is the headline in the Independent’s article about the release of a previously secret document by the Iraq Inquiry, in which “Tony Blair was warned there could be ‘long-term damage’ to the armed forces unless Britain slashed its commitment to the Iraq War”.

Just spotted the article, which fully justifies my previous comment about Tony Blair being ‘gung-ho’ on his misuse of our armed Forces.

What should we read into Blair supporting Jacqui Smith

Well, well. Tony Blair visits Redditch to support Jacqui Smith’s candidacy to be returned as an MP.

An odd choice. What conclusions should we draw. With generosity, perhaps loyalty to a past minister in his government. With political intent, perhaps encouragement to Blairite ministers that he supports them in keeping the New Labour flame alive. While not committing to a candidate for that has any hope of becoming Labour leader, post Brown.

Politics, such a complicated thing. So many angles, so many nuances.

Is there a hidden deal with Tony Blair?

Slippery Tony Blair has surfaced from his money-making adventures around the world to pop up in his old constituency to offer support to Gordon Brown.

I wonder what the deal is with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Support me and I’ll keep the investigators away from prying into how you make your multi-millions. It wouldn’t surprise me.

David Cameron’s reaction, as reported by Conservative Home, is “Nice to see him make a speech that nobody’s paying for.” Well, that’s the question, isn’t it. If everything you do on leaving office is to do it for money, direct or through your own charity, then people will rightly conclude that there may be a deal behind his support.

It demeans the office of Prime Minister, to have a past one so keen to hide his income from public view. Tony Blair may have currency and status elsewhere in the world. He has none here in the UK. I’m somewhat surprised that he has homes here. That his children have Irish passports doesn’t speak of a commitment to this country.

If Labour want to use him in the election campaign, fine. But, for me he’s a lightening rod for negativity with Labour.

Others are quizzical about his reappearance too. Guido Fawkes, naturally. Peter Hoskin in the Spectator. Although the Jim Pickard in the Financial Times still sees traces of stardust around Blair.