They Didn’t Mention the War
Tony 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.”Tagged in: iraq war, tony blair
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