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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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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Time for the UK to start taking slavery seriously

Front page of The Times

Human trafficking has slowly – too slowly – climbed the political agenda in recent months and is starting to make inroads into the national consciousness. This morning The Times’ front page was dominated by the news that a gang grooming young children for sexual slavery in the UK are to stand trial. This was a timely story as, by sheer coincidence, I was at the Centre for Social Justice’s ‘slavery in the UK’ launch with Iain Duncan Smith in central London today. CSJ, an independent think tank launched by the former Conservative Party leader in 2004, are conducting an in depth investigation into contemporary slavery in the UK and will produce a report on their findings in 15 months time. The remit of the review, which will be headed by Unseen UK’s Director Andrew Wallis, is to “transform Britain into a beacon of anti-slavery practice across Europe and the wider world.”

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Ask your MP to support EDM 1846 on slavery and human trafficking

Anti-Slavery International logo – the oldest human rights organisation in the world

Up to 30 million people around the world are enslaved today – including around 9000 people in the United Kingdon. If you would like your Member of Parliament to support an Early Day Motion on the issue of slavery and human trafficking, please write and ask them to sign the Motion. I’ve written a short letter below that you can use to email your MP.

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