Tony Blair aiming for gold in Olympic revival

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 8th August, 2012.

Anyone who follows British politics could not have failed to notice the re-emergence of Tony Blair in recent months. He has hit the headlines for defending the Games, for speaking out on the West’s ignorance to Islamic extremism and for his take on the hysteria over bankers.

From the Sunday morning politics shows to bouncing around the Olympic Park faster than Usain Bolt, he’s literally popping up left, right and centre.

This is all part of a strategy for Blair to “re-engage” with British politics, developed by his new Director of Communications, Rachel Grant.

The timing is no accident. Blair and his team are acutely aware that the feel-good factor of the Olympics provides an invaluable opportunity to remind the public that it was his government that brought the Games to London in the first place.

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Blair Continues to Cast a Long Shadow over British Politics

Image source: The Guardian

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 25th July, 2012.

Following Parliament’s break-up for the summer recess, BBC Radio 4’s This Week in Westminster interviewed former Chancellor Lord Lawson to give the Conservative Party its end-of-year report card.

Lord Lawson added his name to the long list of figures calling for George Osborne to focus his attention on the Treasury and give up his role as chief Tory strategist. He also suggested that Cameron’s leadership style is one of the reasons behind the current uneasy relationship between the Conservative Parliamentary Party and its leader.

He remarked: “David Cameron has modelled himself very much on the Blair style (of long term premiership). I think that the Conservative backbenchers prefer the Thatcher style and I think that is an underlying reason for a certain tension.”

By sheer coincidence, the interview was aired on the eighteenth anniversary of Blair being elected leader of the Labour Party. Following the untimely death of the great John Smith, Blair became Leader of the Opposition on 21 July 1994.

Three general election victories later (and five years after he left Downing Street), Tony Blair’s influence continues to be felt across the political landscape. The current generation of politicians are defined, either favourably or unfavourably, against Blair.

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The Coalition’s War on Privacy

Source: PA

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 4th April, 2012.

It’ been a torrid couple of weeks for David Cameron. Ministerial incompetence combined with headline grabbing cock-up’s such as the Granny Tax, the Pasty Tax, a tax break for millionaires and the fuel crisis have produced an entirely self inflicted news cycle that refuses to die.

You have to feel for Armando Iannucci. Anything in the new series of The Thick of It will look positively tame in comparison.

The government has broken Westminster’s golden rule: they have done the hat-trick of getting the policy, the politics and the PR catastrophically wrong.

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Politics and Technology – The Minefield of Social Media

Published in The Huffington Post on Friday, 6th January, 2012.

The furore over Diane Abbott’s reckless tweeting during the past 24 hours has once again thrust the relationship between politics and technology back into the spotlight.

Throughout modern history, innovations in the way that we communicate with each other have had a profound impact on way that politics is carried out. The emergence of the print media, the telegram, radio and television have all revolutionised the way that politicians operate.

Today, the internet and 24 hour news organisations mean they must always stay on message or risk finding themselves embroiled in controversy – as Diane Abbott, like many before her, has so spectacularly demonstrated.

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As We Approach the Olympics, it is Time to Start Taking Slavery Seriously

Published in The Huffington Post on Wednesday, 21st December, 2011.

On 10 December 1948 the United Nations declared “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Last week marked the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Forged out of the ashes of the Second World War, the Declaration set out inalienable human rights based upon the pillars of justice, dignity and equality.

Article Four of the Declaration states “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” Despite this, human trafficking, the modern day version of the slave trade, is flourishing.

The United Nations estimates that 12 million people around the world are enslaved and at least 600,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Academics such as Kevin Bale claim that real number of people who are enslaved is likely to be closer to 30 million. This includes thousands of people in the United Kingdom.

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The clocks have gone back. It’s now 1990

Published in The Huffington Post on Sunday, 30th October, 2011.

As we enter November and leave British Summer Time behind, we reach the 21st anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation as prime minister. Despite the melodrama of more recent political events, it is hard to imagine what Westminster must have been like in the three weeks between Geoffrey Howe quitting the cabinet and Thatcher being forced from office. Or is it?

The issue of Britain’s place within Europe was dominating the political agenda. An unpopular prime minister had suffered a damaging rebellion from her own party. The Tories were trailing in the polls. The economy was inching towards a recession. And a high profile member of the cabinet had just resigned.

Far from being unique, this has an eerily familiar feel.

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The toxic ‘E’ word: 21 years on, the Tories learnt nothing from Geoffrey Howe

Published in Total Politics Magazine on Tuesday, 1st November, 2011.

Even by Westminster’s standards, the past week has been bizarre. Parliament has been engrossed by an puzzling backbench debate on the issue of Britain’s place within Europe. The House of Commons, the tea rooms and parliamentary bar have again been filled with non-stop chatter about the ‘E’ word. It culminated in David Cameron suffering a needless blow to his authority following the biggest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe.

As the economy risks sliding back into recession, the Tories appear to be transfixed on ideological profligacy rather than adopting a pragmatic approach to governing and dealing with more urgent realities.

This seems eerily familiar.

Today marks the twenty-first anniversary of Geoffrey Howe’s resignation. On 1 November 1990, the former Chancellor and Foreign Secretary quit the Conservative front bench and triggered a political tidal wave that ultimately led to Margaret Thatcher’s fall from office.

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