Tony Blair has written a stinging critique of Ed Miliband’s leadership for the New Statesman. The former prime minister argues, astutely, that Labour under Mr Miliband risks becoming a party of protest rather than a serious government-in-waiting. Mr Blair says that Labour must be “the seekers after answers, not the repository for people’s anger”. Instead, it drifts towards being “fellow-travellers in sympathy; we are not leaders. And in these times, above all people want leadership.”
Mr Blair is accused of being “evangelical” in his approach to the world and hence to toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, of making mistakes which led to British forces being ill-prepared for the invasion and caught out by the violent aftermath, and of being so determined to support President George W Bush that he imposed no preconditions for Britain going to war alongside the United States.
Meanwhile, senior Bush White House staff confirmed for the first time to The Sunday Telegraph that they had viewed it as a certainty that Mr Blair would back any US-led invasion, long before he publicly committed Britain to taking part.
They say he made clear his unwavering support for US policy nearly a year before the invasion, after a visit to the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Today is the 10th anniversary of the million strong march against the Iraq war. Which is why today would be the perfect day for Tony Blair to hold up his hands and say “I was wrong”.
Over the past week there have been attempts by some guardians of New Labour’s tattered standard to do the decent thing. If people had bothered to actually read Jim Murphy’s speech yesterday to the Henry Jackson Society – rather than throwing a childish strop over the politics of some of those invited to hear it – they’d have heard him acknowledge the last Labour government’s “primitive understanding” of the conflicts they were instigating. The description of the fight against terrorism as a “generational struggle” was one that “oversimplifies the nature of the threat and compounds, rather than learns, the lessons from the past”, he said.
MORNING BRIEFING – By Benedict Brogan (Daily Telegraph).
Good morning. There’s a long day of negotiations ahead (keep up with our live coverage), but at the moment, Dave seems to be having a good summit in Brussels. Our report on the proposals put before European leaders this morning suggests that a £30bn real terms budget cut between 2014 and 2020 is likely, with a £1.7bn cut to the EU’s administrative budget. If the proposals are adopted, and British officials are stressing that this is a big “if”, then this is a significant triumph for Dave, who was widely seen as stuffed following a Commons vote for a real terms budget cut. In a wider sense, his Europe speech was also a call to arms for Europe itself, not just Britain. An outbreak of fiscal sanity on the Continent implies that it is hitting home despite the mockery which greeted it in some corners.
Haggling between leaders has taken place through the night, with Herman Van Rompuy eventually producing a budget some €12bn lighter than the previous suggestion. The €960bn for budget commitments (the maximum the EU can spend) proposal is significantly lower than the €1,033bn originally proposed by the European Commission, the FT (£) reports. The budget payments (amount actually expected to be spent) figure may be as low as €908bn – well below the French “absolute minimum” of €913bn.
Dave, who powered through the night on espresso, fruit and haribo, will have one sticky point to explain. The British contribution will go up. This is largely thanks to the surrender of much of the British rebate by Tony Blair, and the transfer of wealth between north-west Europe and the new Eastern European states. In fact, each net payer will pay more (except Italy, a nice election present for Mario Monti). We knew that beforehand, however. At least the rebate isn’t shrinking (unlike the Dutch one, they stand to lose 45pc). If this initial apparent success holds, Mr Cameron will be entitled to resounding congratulations from his party. His achievement will be on a par with Mrs Thatcher and the rebate or John Major and the opt out at Maastricht. He has delivered a reduction in the proposed EU budget, and saved the rebate.
GOVE CHARGES ON
Michael Gove decided “not to let the best be the enemy of the good” when dropping his plans for a single exam board for each core subject, he told Parliament yesterday. The education reform project simply cannot be accomplished in one swoop, he argued. It doesn’t mean he’s happy about it, our story that the European Union is to be dropped from the national curriculum could be seen as a side-swipe at the procurement rules which prevented him from going ahead, but as the FT (£) notes, he is still on the brink of achieving curriculum and league table reform. The Times (£) believes that the timetable may also need changing, but the gist of the reforms remains intact.
Reaction to Mr Gove’s setback has been determinedly tribal. The Guardian sums up the reforms and their focus on heroes and heroines as “big on facts, light on real reforms – but ideal for University Challenge”, while its editorial calls him a “bright boy” lacking in humility. Our leader declares the response to Mr Gove’s tacking as “juvenile”, while Blower’s cartoon casts Mr Gove as Marechal Foch, attacking boldly against all odds. Fraser Nelson takes the view that Mr Gove is doing better than yesterday suggests:
“In the office of the Education Secretary hangs a poster showing a bombsite, with a picture of a child sitting at a school desk in the middle of the rubble. ‘The fate of our country won’t be decided on a battlefield,’ it reads, ‘it will be determined in a classroom.’ He suffered an embarrassing defeat yesterday, losing the battle of the EBacc. But he is, still, winning the war.”
CARNEY WINS HEARTS AND MINDS
Mark Carney’s first appearance in Parliament, giving evidence before the Commons Treasury Select Committee, was a barnstorming success. The FT (£) reports that the “rock star” of central banking won over his inquisitors by agreeing to answer reasonable requests for internal discussion documents, and by telling them he didn’t know whether RBS and Lloyds should be broken up. Quentin Letts was also impressed by Mr Carney’s “jockey’s build and dainty, feminine fingers”. In today’s Telegraph, Jeremy Warner also hails the new chief:
“He seems to be handling himself pretty well, and MPs on the Treasury Committee seem relatively impressed. He’s already confirming his reputation as a smoother, less chippy performer than Sir Mervyn, and it seems certain he’s going to be more consensual in his approach to policy than the incumbent.”
TORIES TAKE NARROW LEAD IN EASTLEIGH
The results of Lord Ashcroft‘s first Eastleigh poll show that the Conservatives are in pole position, albeit by virtue of doing marginally less badly than the Lib Dems. The Tories are ahead on 34pc (-6pc), the Lib Dems are on 31pc (-16pc), Labour in third on 19pc (+9pc), and Ukip at their heels on 13pc (+9pc). The polling breakdown indicates that clear conservative leads on the economy and Europe trump a Lib Dem lead on the environment. To push the advantage home, the Mail reports that Dave will be making a personal appearance to support Maria Hutchings, who was also the Conservative candidate in 2010. Labour, meanwhile, are still searching for the right person, as Guido reported yesterday. Someone? Anyone?
LABOUR WAS WARNED OVER MID STAFFORDSHIRE
President Obama’s health adviser warned Labour in 2008 that the NHS’s focus on targets meant poor quality care, we report. Although the party still retains a firm polling lead when the health service is brought up, news such as this, and the Mail‘s report that the legacy of the Labour era could be as many as 4,000 deaths a year in 26 NHS trusts, will prevent them playing their hand with much boldness in the years ahead.
Is this Owen Paterson’s John Gummer moment? Mary Creagh piled in to Defra on Today, criticising the Environment Secretary’s silence on horse meat. She has asked if she would eat a Findus horse meat lasagne, and said no. At some point someone is going to ask Mr Paterson the same question. Does he decline, or get himself pictured tucking in to one? He may think that wild horses wouldn’t drag him into this, but that can’t last.
BORIS ON THE BLOWER
Nick Clegg’s weekly penance on LBC was ambushed by the Mayor of London yesterday. Bo-Jo used a pre-recorded message to demand that ministers abandon their “posh limos” and take to the underground. Mr Clegg, thinking on his feet, told “Boris from Islington” to “get out of his limo”, the Mail reports. Inventive, very inventive.
CRUDDAS PRESSES THE POINT
Not content with telling the Daily Politics that his leader was a “work in progress” earlier this week, Jon Cruddas used a speech to the Resolution Foundation to demand Ed find another string to his bow other than simply opposing all the Coalition’s works. He warned that the party had become “remote and administrative” and must avoid proposing “yet more state”, we report. He added “simply opposing the cuts without an alternative is no good. It fails to offer reasonable hope. The stakes are high because when hope is not reasonable, despair becomes real.” Hardly a ringing endorsement of predistribution, is it?
STILL HIGH AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
The problem Parliament faces is that several MPs have never recovered from their youthful experiments with recreational drugs, according to Peter Lilley. We report that the former social security secretary used his interview with House magazine to argue that “God gave us a mind and a conscience and drugs effectively disable both your mind and your conscience. The only reason that I have a clear head on cannabis is that I’ve never taken any. Much of my friends, colleagues in this place did and don’t seem to have recovered.” Not you, Prime Minister, obviously.
TWEETS AND TWITS
What can Kerry McCarthy be implying?:
@KerryMP: “I met with two St Brendan’s Sixth Form students in parliament this week, who were still reeling from having just met the Mogg…I think I managed to reassure them he wasn’t your typical MP”
In the Telegraph
Fraser Nelson – Gove may have lost a skirmish, but he’s still winning the war
Jeremy Warner – Let’s make the most of clever Mr Carney
Jane Cummings – Nurses who don’t care about patients must go
Telegraph View – The Left has no right to lecture on education
Best of the rest
Philip Stephens in the FT (£) – The US won’t, Europe can’t – the future of intervention
Brian Wilson in The Guardian – Bread and Circuses
Philip Collins in The Times (£) – The NHS is run for the staff, not the patients
Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail – How to improve exams? Just ask the parents…
TODAY: European Council summit.
07:15 pm: Former Attorney General Baroness Scotland of Asthal to give Newman Lecture. University of Notre Dame London Centre, 1 Suffolk Street.
The former Prime Minister said Mr Miliband does not have a problem with his “vision” but he does have a “big challenge” ahead when it comes to turning that into concrete policies.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Mr Miliband has an uphill struggle to win the next election against David Cameron.
“What Ed’s trying to do is tougher than what I had to do,” he said. “When I became Labour leader we’d lost four elections. This is trying to bounce back and win after a heavy defeat.”
Mr Blair said he understood the Labour Party’s vision but suggested more work needs to be done on coming up with concrete ideas.
Perhaps the best part of David Cameron’s Europe speech was Tony Blair’s baffled reaction to it a few hours later. Why, Blair asked, would any prime minister be so vulgar as to propose a referendum and put the public into the equation? The way to work in Brussels is to have a quiet word with fellow members of the elite and cut a deal. By holding a popular vote, he continued, Cameron was in effect putting a gun to his own head and declaring: “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll blow my brains out.” To Blair, the British public are there to be invoked in speeches. To actually consult them is a form of suicide.
Today we’ve had confirmation of the 5300 redundancies being imposed on the military this summer, as the total is reduced steadily to 82,000 by 2020. At the same time David Cameron leads a meeting of the NSC to discuss the ‘generational struggle’ he envisages in the Maghreb. No wonder then that the military are anxious about how that’s going to work. The Sun has a taste of top brass concern today (and Pete Hoskin at ConHom has a handy compendium of similar headlines).
The Government is presiding over sweeping cuts to the military imposed by financial necessity, and the challenge of reconfiguring our Armed Forces to do more with lots less. Anyone who doubts how bad the mess is should look back at what Gen Stanley McChrystal, the former US commander in Afghanistan, had to say about our under-equipped and under-performing military last week. Or ask military folk about what shape we are in and they will produce a litany of complaints about major procurement projects that have committed us to big expenditure on things that have little to do with taking on terrorists in the “ungoverned places” of North Africa. The campaign against the inadequacies of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review continues.