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 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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Ed Miliband’s new Shadow Government in full (October 2011)

Following the changes that Ed Miliband made to Labour’s Shadow Government on October 7th, below is a full list of the new Shadow government. The list includes Shadow Secretaries of State (underlined), with Shadow Ministers listed below.

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Ed Miliband needs to address Labour’s talent deficit and add steel to the Shadow Cabinet

What's ahead for Ed Miliband's Shadow Cabinet?

Since the last General Election many of the heavy weights that dominated the New Labour political landscape have left the frontline of British politics. David Miliband, Alistair Darling, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw and of course Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown all stood down from Ministerial positions. This exodus followed the departure of people like John Prescott and John Reid who stood down when Tony Blair resigned as Prime Minister in 2007. This provided a welcome opportunity for new blood to come through – but it also intensified a talent deficit that is apparent right across Westminster as Labour lost a great deal of its front bench talent and institutional memory. The sheer dominance of Blair and Brown over the last twenty years has stifled the development of top class politicians. As a result, Ed Miliband’s Cabinet over the last twelve months has had a mixed record and has been relatively lacklustre in holding the Conservative government to account.

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Odds shorten on an early election

Difficult days for the Prime Minister

The events of the last 72 hours have been truly remarkable. The exposure of a corrupt culture at the heart of the British media; the perverse and systematic intrusion by Fleet Street into the lives of people affected by tragedy; the closure of the world’s biggest selling English-language newspaper; and the arrest of the Prime Minister’s right hand man for the past five years. All are astounding developments in and of themselves. However, combined they are producing the biggest political story for a generation that is starting to put the coalition government’s long term future in serious doubt.

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