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They Didn’t Mention the War

John Rentoul

tb 245x300 They Didnt Mention the WarTony Blair came to address Lobby journalists at a Commons Press Gallery lunch today. His speech was ad libbed, starting with a pre-emptive strike against tomorrow’s Daily Mail, which is preparing something about “money-grabber taking money from dictators”, and which had sent him a list of 20 questions along the lines of, he said, “Why are you such a bastard?” He said he had sent back 20 different ways of saying “bugger off”.

He then made five points. 1. Europe (a recap of his message here). 2. Immigration: a strong defence of his record, saying deal with the problems but immigrants are good for the country, especially Poles. The implied rebuke to Ed Miliband, apologising for Labour’s record, was unmistakeable.* 3. Don’t bash bankers. In other words, Labour needs business support. Implied rebuke to Gordon Brown (not a single significant business endorsement in 2010) and Ed Miliband. 4. Public service reform. Further, faster. Ditto. 5. Foreign policy: stay engaged with the world.

In each case, easy populism presses David Cameron and Ed Miliband to go against the country’s long-term interest.

Familiar enough, but good points, well made.

The interesting bit was the questions from journalists. Most were quite tough. One was revelatory: Robert Hutton of Bloomberg had a draft copy (which Blair signed, picture) of Blair’s memoir, A Journey, in which Blair described the Coalition Government of 2010 as “a Tory version of New Labour”, which was changed in the published version to “a Tory version of a centrist government”. Hutton asked why it had been changed. “I didn’t put it in eventually because I didn’t think it was correct,” replied Blair. Another conspiracy theory bites the dust.

Someone else asked him if he were making a return to British politics, to which he said no, but went on: “I just wanted to feel what it was like again.”

Most notable, I thought, was that none of the questions, and there were more than 20 of them, was about Iraq. That may have been because everyone knows what his views are (and indeed what everybody else’s views are), but knowing what the answer is likely to be doesn’t usually stop journalists asking a question. Something has changed.

*He also had a good line on UKIP, which was new to me, and rather better than David Cameron’s “fruitcakes and closet racists”: “Never far from being nasty and never close to being sensible.”

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  • creggancowboy

    Hot on the heels of that other loser, Clegg. 1. EU – just another rich men’s club, it offers nothing for the proletariat here nor there either. 2. Poles? Let Tony share a bus with some recent entrants whose idea of personal hygiene is shall we say Not Good. Also, if he learns a bit of the lingo he can eavesdrop on what they think of Jews, Blacks, gays. Not enlightened. 3. Banks – Thatchers illegitimate son speaks! 4. Public Service? Wassat? 5. For Pol, US poodle, we have many surplus economic units waiting to be maimed/killed. They then return to a 3rd world police state.

  • greggf

    “He then made five points.”

    Not one of which made any reference to public opinion except his throwaway line about “easy populism”, which put us straight about it!
    So it’s true when they say Cameron admires Blair….

  • Pacificweather

    Never far from being nasty, never close to being sensible. Neoliberal neocon neonazi neosporin neonatal neostigmine neoseeker. Can some or any of these words be applied to Tony Blair? Should some be applied to him intravenously? Is your life just too exiting for words? Are these more questions to which the answer is no?

  • Pacificweather

    “Blair described the Coalition Government of 2010 as “a Tory version of New Labour”, which was changed in the published version to “a Tory version of a centrist government”. Hutton asked why it had been changed. “I didn’t put it in eventually because I didn’t think it was correct,” replied Blair”.

    What he neglected to add was that the Coalition is too left wing to be New Labour.

  • Toocleverbyhalf

    “Never far from being nasty and never close to being sensible.” wonderful. He does have a way with pithy sound-bites doesn’t he? I’ve been struggling for ages for a way to sum up the UKIP ragbag…

    By the way, do you deliberately bait your Blair-hating readers or is it just a happy bonus?

  • http://twitter.com/JohnRentoul John Rentoul

    I consistently set out a sane and balanced view; and then sometimes spend time puzzling over the reaction.

  • BlairSupporter

    Pacificweather – perhaps your life is too “exiting” for words. Mine’s just boringly exciting.


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