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20Dec03 - BBC
The Blairs will return to the Red Sea area for the third year running this Christmas, according to reports.
Hodan Pankhurst, whose husband Reza is one of three Britons being held for promoting a banned Islamic group, says Mr Blair is "endorsing" their torture.
Downing Street has refused to comment on the Blairs' holiday plans.
Mr Pankhurst, 28, together with 29-year-old Londoner Ian Nisbet and Maajid Nawaz, 25, of Essex, are accused of trying to revive Hizb-ut-Tahrir - the Islamic Liberation Party.
The three Britons are standing trial in Cairo's Supreme Court and are due to learn their fate on Christmas Day.
Mrs Pankhurst, who lives in London, said: "Egypt has broken many, many laws in the way it has treated my husband and the others.
"By maintaining this sort of relationship Tony Blair is an accomplice in those crimes. This is nothing short of hypocrisy"
Hizb-ut-Tahrir was banned in Egypt following an attempted coup in 1974.
Mr Nawaz and Mr Pankhurst are also accused of possessing and distributing printed literature which "promoted Hizb-ut- Tahrir's message".
Mr Pankhurst faces a third charge of possessing a computer used for "propagating" the group's ideology.
The trio, who all deny the charges, were arrested in Egypt in April 2002 together with 23 Egyptians in a post-September 11 crackdown.
They claim they have been forced to sign confessions they could not read in Arabic and have been beaten, tortured with electric shocks and deprived of sleep.
Mrs Pankhurst says the government, which has taken the unusual step of writing to the British prisoners to say their believe their claims, is sending mixed messages to the Egyptian authorities.
She claims Foreign Office officials are pressing for explanations on torture "while Tony Blair is furthering his very cosy relationship by going there year after year on holiday".
"If there's an ounce of justice left in Egypt our husbands should be home", she added.
Egyptian tourism minister Lila Habid reportedly confirmed the Blairs would be returning to the Sharm el-Sheikh resort.
But Downing Street would not comment on the holiday plans insisting the matter was "private".
By Toby Helm and David Blair
Downing Street's annual attempt to keep the Prime Minister's holiday plans secret foundered yesterday when the Egyptian government confirmed that for the third year running the Blairs will take their New Year break on the Red Sea.
The prospect of Mr Blair and his family lending their support to the struggling Egyptian holiday market was too much for the country's tourism minister.
No 10 had refused to say which hot spot the Blairs would choose this year for their winter sun break. They claim to want to protect the family's privacy.
But Lila Habid, Egypt's under-secretary for tourism, could not contain her excitement when asked if the rumours were true. "He [Mr Blair] will be in Sharm el- Sheikh. We are respecting his privacy," she said, seemingly unaware of the contradiction.
"It's very good news. When a very important person comes here for the third year running, it shows we are a safe and a beautiful destination."
No 10 refused to confirm that the Blair family will leave for Sharm on Boxing Day - or, indeed, that they are going there at all.
But they are known to like Sharm, a modern and slightly soulless resort on the Sinai peninsula, because it is warm and convenient. It has wonderful snorkelling, diving and other sporting facilities.
In the past, they have stayed in a villa beside the Tower Club hotel close to the sea and long sandy beaches. Inland is striking mountain scenery. A day- trip away is Mount Sinai and the famous Greek Orthodox monastery of St Catherine.
During their previous visits the Blairs have flown to see the Pyramids and the temples at Luxor. But they have always stayed overnight in Sharm. An exclusion zone is always thrown around their villa.
Sharm is remote but not too far away. If the Prime Minister needs to dash back, he is just five hours or so from London.
For the Egyptians, the Blairs' presence is worth a million holiday advertisements. Egypt suffered a series of terrorist attacks by fundamentalists in the early to mid-1990s, which severely damaged the tourist industry. There has been no attack since 1997.
As for the dangers of travel to Egypt, the Foreign Office does not seem overly worried. Its latest travel advice, updated last month, mentions a "general threat" to Western interests from terrorism in the region. It advises "vigilance" and that "sensible precautions" are taken.
Other potential dangers, it says, lurk offshore, were Mr Blair, his wife Cherie and children Euan, Nicky, Kathryn and Leo to fancy sailing out to sea or a quiet day's fishing. "There have been attacks by armed pirates against ships in the southern Red Sea."
The Blairs' holiday in Sharm two years ago was the subject of controversy after news leaked out that they were staying there free as the guests of the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
They tried to keep the whole thing secret but were seen at Cairo airport on Boxing Day. Last year, they agreed to pay in full for their break.
Mr Blair has had a stressful year with the war in Iraq, rows over domestic reform with his own party and the Hutton inquiry into the death of the government scientist Dr David Kelly.
His recent health scares have convinced many colleagues that he badly needs a break. The Egyptians will do their best to make sure it is a good one and that, next year, he makes it four trips in a row.
Martin Bright, home affairs editor
Sunday December 14, 2003
Disturbing new details have emerged about the treatment of 14 foreign terrorist suspects held without trial in British high-security jails.
At least half of them are showing signs of serious mental illness. Their lawyers say they have been pushed 'beyond the limits of human endurance'. One detainee is a polio victim, another has lost two limbs and a third has attempted suicide.
The men and their families fear some may not survive their indefinite imprisonment at Belmarsh prison in south-east London, which has been described as 'Britain's Guantanamo Bay' or 'Camp Delta UK', and Woodhill prison near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.
The Home Office has said that none will be granted bail unless they are terminally ill.
The men, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have been described as a serious threat to national security. But the Observer has discovered that two are seriously disabled and most have been on anti-depressant drugs for more than a year.
There are particular concerns about a North African in his thirties, who has suffered from polio since childhood. His mental health has deteriorated so much that he can no longer recognise or communicate with fellow inmates.
His condition worsened after he was confined to his cell by his illness. The prison authorities refused him a wheelchair, and inmates' offers to carry him to classes and prayers were rejected.
A second North African has no arms and has to be helped by fellow prisoners to carry out everyday tasks. A Palestinian detainee Abu Rideh was transferred to Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital after trying to kill himself over a year ago and has been there ever since.
The men's morale was seriously hit by the failure of 10 appeals against the internments. The men's lawyers fear those who have kept their sanity have become exhausted by acting as full-time carers for the others.
The suspects are being held under emergency anti-terrorist legislation introduced two years ago this week. A Home Office spokesman said they had regular access to mental health services and any special needs of disabled prisoners was taken into account. Belmarsh also had a team of mental health specialists including three psychiatrists and three psychiatric nurses.
The highest-profile prisoner is Abu Qatada, a British-based Palestinian cleric whose demands for a holy war are alleged to have inspired al-Qaeda. Videos of his sermons were found in the flat of the leader of the 11 September attacks, Mohamed Atta.
The detainees have been charged with no crime; are unable to see the intelligence evidence against them; and are confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day. The Government used emergency legislation against them because it had insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.
Gareth Peirce of law firm Birnberg Peirce, which represents most of the men, said: 'They have now been pushed beyond the limits of human endurance. All these men are refugees and a number are torture victims. It is well-established that victims of torture should not be confined, because this can trigger former trauma.'
Peirce will raise her concerns tomorrow in a lecture for the human rights organisation Liberty at the London School of Economics to mark the second anniversary of the detainees' arrests.
Natalia Garcia, a solicitor with two internee clients in Woodhill prison, said: 'They have a feeling of total despair. One has told me that he feels he has been buried alive. It is as if the whole weight of the state is against you and there is nothing you can do.'
A report from Amnesty International last week condemned the emergency legislation saying it created a 'shadow criminal justice system' for foreign nationals which permitted indefinite detention using evidence from foreign intelligence services extracted under torture.
Matthias Kelly QC, chairman of the Bar Council said: 'I am completely opposed to the use of internment. If the Government has the evidence, why does it not have the confidence to put it up in court?'
Documents seen by The Observer reveal that several of the men are in prison because they were suspected of fundraising for the war against Russia in Chechnya. One man was arrested because he was thought to be 'working to procure items... for extremists fighting in Chechnya'. These included boots and sleeping bags.
The document shows that the Home Office believes the suspects, mostly Algerians, are members of extremist Islamic groups or associates of individuals connected with terrorism. Six Algerians are accused of membership of the GIA, the Armed Islamic Group, which have been blamed for for massacring of woman and children.
Others are believed to be members of a second Algerian extremist group, the GSPC, or Salafist Group for Call and Combat, the Tunisian Fighting Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Several detainees are said to have recruited for terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.
By Paul Waugh Deputy Political Editor
04 December 2003
Oliver Letwin, the shadow Chancellor, finally caved in to pressure and quit his job with NM Rothschild yesterday.
In a statement, he said he had quit the bank "to concentrate on winning the next election" and because his commitment to the Conservative Party "will always come first".
However, his decision caused confusion when it emerged that hours earlier he had given an interview implying that he intended to carry on with his Rothschild job.
Mr Letwin had told Bloomberg News he would not "be making any contribution to debates about taxation of the financial services industry" in future Government legislation.
On his appointment three weeks ago, Mr Letwin was criticised by Labour MPs for retaining his £100,000-plus post. At the time he said it helped him understand how the City was faring under Government policy.
He also said that he had declared his job in the register of MPs' interests.
As a director at NM Rothschild, Mr Letwinnormally started work in the City at about 7am before going to his office in the Commons.
He worked for the bank before becoming an MP in 1997 and continued after joining the Tory frontbench.
In his statement, Mr Letwin said: "It has become clear to me that I cannot continue with my work in the City. I have therefore decided to relinquish my [post] and to concentrate on winning the next election."
Ian McCartney, the Labour Party chairman, was scathing about the delay in Mr Letwin's response. "People will not trust the judgement of someone who tried to cling on to lucrative directorships."
Kevin Brennan, Labour MP for Cardiff West, who led the calls for Mr Letwin to give up his directorship, said it was "an ignominious and humiliating climbdown".
Woe unto the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take councel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore shall the strength of the Pharaoh be your shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your confusion! Isaiah 30:1-3
Nicholas Watt and Owen Bowcott
Friday December 27, 2002 - The Guardian
Tony Blair yesterday flew out with his family for a new year holiday in the Egyptian Red sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Unlike last year, when the Blairs made a donation to a charity after the Egyptian government met the costs of their holiday, the prime minister has paid up.
Downing Street, which faced intense criticism over last year's trip, said the Blairs had "covered" the costs of their break "in the normal way".
Mr Blair, his wife Cherie and their four children are understood to be staying at the Tower Club hotel where they stayed last year. Tight security is in place around the hotel which is close to the villa where President Hosni Mubarak and other members of the Egyptian cabinet stay over the new year.
Downing Street said yesterday that no official business had so far been planned. A spokeswoman said: "It is a private family holiday in Egypt."
Diplomats will not be surprised, however, if Mr Blair and Mr Mubarak meet. The prime minister is unlikely to miss the chance of a chat with Mr Mubarak in the run-up to a possible attack on Iraq.
The Blairs' decision to visit Egypt for the second year in a row delighted the country's tourism chiefs. The Egyptian government will also see the visit as another sign of the prime minister's determination to build bridges with moderate Arab states.
The trip will disappoint the families of the three Britons on trial in Cairo who have pleaded for the prime minister to intervene in their case. In November the three men, who claim they were tortured by Egyptian police for allegedly spreading Islamist views, sent from prison a letter to Mr Blair appealing for him to ensure they have a fair trial. They have been in custody since April.
The men appeared in court on Christmas Day and their trial is due to resume on Sunday.
New Statesman, July 1, 2002, by Nick Cohen
Most of the slogans from the nativity of new Labour are rotting down in the compost bin of history. "Stakeholding" and the "Third Way" briefly baffled some of the best minds in academia and journalism (not a hard task, I grant you), before being abandoned by the party or mocked to death by its critics. Only one ideological concept survives. The belief in the "rights and responsibilities" that flow from belonging to the community is invoked as often today as it was in the mid-1990s.
When cynics accuse Blair of being chaff in the wind, he replies that he has an unshakable and non-negotiable passion for the community. "Our values are clear," he declared to the Christian Socialist Movement last year. "The equal worth of all citizens, and their right to be treated with equal respect and consideration despite their differences, are fundamental. So, too, is individual responsibility, a value that, in the past, the left sometimes under-played. But a large part of individual responsibility concerns the obligations we owe one to another. The self is best realised in community with others." In his ill- judged speech to the Women's Institute a year earlier, Blair managed to stammer out: "At the heart of my beliefs is the idea of community. I don't just mean the villages, towns and cities in which we live. I mean that our fulfilment as individuals lies in a decent society of others. My argument to you today is that the renewal of community is the answer to the challe;nges of a changing world."
If sluttish mothers want the right to receive child benefit, they must meet their responsibilities to the community and send their children to school. The unemployed must take whatever menial work the community, as represented by the job centre, can offer or lose their right to the dole. The rich must ... well, the rich don't have to do anything, not even pay taxes, but we'll leave them alone for the time being.
His meanderings appear too banal to be worth discussing. No one believes that a man can be an island unto himself, not even Margaret Thatcher. Wags dismiss Blair's "community" as an empty word: a concept as slippery as oil on glass. For Blair, however, the meaning is precise. The community is generally the state. Benefits to the poor and the civil liberties enjoyed by everyone are no longer absolute rights, but negotiable concessions that may be withdrawn by the community if the recipients do not meet their responsibility to uphold the communal standards set down by his state.
The story of how Blair came to his harsh communitarianism has been told without criticism in several instant biographies and scores of articles. The public schoolboy went to Oxford and messed about with dire student rock bands. He was a typical young man of his time and class until he met Peter Thomson, an Australian graduate student and militant Christian. Blair found in Thomson a "spellbinding" figure. Thomson found in Blair an acolyte whose unformed and apolitical mind could be directed to the work of John Macmurray, a communist who became a Christian socialist philosopher. Macmurray's writings turned Blair from a raw youth into a man with the ideas to lead his country.
The Scotsman - Wed 25 Sep 2002
Schwarzenegger flanked by Warren Buffet, left, and Lord Rothschild, at stately Waddesdon Manor. But has the actor set his sights on a house of a whiter hue?
Tough-guy Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man more familiar with the red carpets of a movie premiere than a white collar business seminar, so the sight of the Terminator escorting Warren Buffet, the second-richest man on the planet, to the European Economic Round Table conference on Monday was slightly strange. His pressed business suit, white shirt (attaboy Arnie) and sombre striped tie were a world away from the army fatigues or black leather jacket of his signature roles, triggering speculation that a career change may be just around the corner.
After a string of flops - remember Eraser, End of Days and Collateral Damage? Probably not - the actor needs next years Terminator 3 to hit paydirt. Should the film nosedive he plans to move into politics and run for the governorship of California, the platform from which Ronald Reagan propelled himself into the White House. A spokesman for NetJets, the corporate aircraft firm owned by Buffet - which sponsored the seminar - insisted Arnie was an ordinary delegate, as well as a customer, just there to listen. He was not there to talk nor paid to attend.
From the sidelines it seems a slick piece of synergy by the billionaire Buffet: organise a lavish conference at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, the ancestral home of the Rothschild banking family, invite the worlds leading businessmen and financiers, and dazzle them with a major Hollywood star. Schwarzenegger, an astute businessman himself with a degree in business and economics from the University of Wisconsin, gains the wisdom and knowledge of guest speakers such as James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, Jorma Ollila, chief executive of Nokia and Roland Berger, a prominent consultant in global strategy. After two days of handshakes and drinks hell have boosted his credibility with the men who may one day bankroll his political ambitions. He might well also point out how happy he is with NetJets services. The company, whose other clients include Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis, sell an eighth or a 16th of a private jet to customers, entitling them to a certain number of flying hours without the expense of maintaining ground crews and hanger space.
A Republican - though one married to a Kennedy - Schwarzenegger signalled his support for Dubya Bush in his choice of footwear. While his follow guests shuffled around in their handmade Italian shoes, Arnie had the additional swagger bestowed by a pair of black cowboy boots with stainless steel tips.
What appeared to be a promotional stunt may instead be the actors next step towards joining the Presidents political posse.
Picture, Tim Ripley - George Robertson being interviewed during Kosovo conflict - Michael Howerd - Tory Home secretary described as having 'somthing of the night' about him - hovers in the background
The military are increasingly frustrated at the reduction of their role to that of props in Downing Street's desperate attempts to put a good spin on Tony Blair's war against Serbia. "Commanders aren't allowed to make decisions," said one senior officer. "Everything is run by Campbell and Oona for the media".
Ministry of Defence (MOD) insiders with experience of the Falklands, Gulf and Bosnian wars are horrified at how the New Labour team is running Britain's war effort. The most important decisions are made not by the Cabinet or service chiefs but a small elite group of spin doctors, headed by Alastair Campbell and Oona Muirhead - respectively the Number 10 and MOD media chiefs. This joint Cabinet Office/MOD/Foreign Office group officially decides the "line of the day". But Whitehall warriors say it has spread its tentacles into almost every aspect of the campaign.
There are daily directives that can run to 70 pages, listing every possible response to media questioning and crucially the strategy for getting ministers seen on BBC and ITN news broadcasts. Military participants in the spin control committee are treated with suspicion and have to sign special security documents promising not to leak its deliberations.
"Our war strategy seems to consist of getting ministers on TV" said one MOD official. "Everything else is of secondary consideration. Hours in meetings are devoted to deciding who will appear on TV and what line to take."
The dominant role of Alastair Campbell is well known but Oona Muirhead, MOD Director of Information Strategy and News, also plays a key role in ensuring Defence Secretary George Robertson and his ministerial team get their share of the limelight.
MOD insiders are embarrassed at the way ministers talk up the British role in the war. The daily press briefing by ministers and military top brass give the impression of "media overkill", when Britain is only contributing 20 or so aircraft to an air campaign involving more than 1,000. Britain may not be "punching above its weight" in military terms but it is certainly "spinning above its weight".
On the first weekend of the war as the refugee exodus began, NATO was planning to extend the bombing strategy by targeting the Yugoslav army in Kosovo. Downing Street needed good headlines in the Sundays and leaked the plan at 6pm on the Saturday. The papers obliged, but allied air commanders did not then have the planes in place to carry out the missions.
In early April, as the air campaign continued to fail to halt the flow of refugees, the MOD decided to divert the aircraft carrier Invincible to the Adriatic to allow ministers to talk about "piling on the pressure".
The Western Morning News in Plymouth found out about the mission from local sources but on checking was threatened with the withdrawal of all facilities on navy ships and bases if it published "secret military information". Days later Downing Street announced the story to the London media, with ministers on hand to bask in the glory.
Invincible's Harriers have flown a few patrols over Yugoslavia but they can't participate in the bombing campaign because they lack precision targeting equipment. As for its anti-submarine helicopters, their most telling contribution has been flying George Robertson to Albania for a 20 minute photo-opportunity.
Almost the same thing happened with the leaked decision to divert the new helicopter-carrying amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean to the Mediterranean. Defence journalists had for weeks been asking about the possibility of deploying it to the Adriatic but were ridiculed for making such wild suggestions when the ship had not even completed trials. But no-one has a clue what Ocean is supposed to do when it arrives.
At the end of April, in the wake of the Washington Summit, where his "land invasion" call was humiliating rebuffed, Tony Blair announced that additional Harriers were being sent to Gioia del Colle in Italy. But no one told the RAF commander at the base, who found out from the media. RAF officers in Italy admit that many of the reporting restrictions on local media access are not due to security requirements but to allow London to announce high profile developments first. "We will never be able to show good cockpit video of bombing missions here [in Italy] because the politicians considered it to be the crown jewel of their briefings".
Military logic and spin collided in public during the first week of May. Lieutenant-General Sir Mike Jackson, the senior British officer in Macedonia, told Newsnight that the decision on a land operation had to be made within two weeks to get the Kosovar refugees home before the Balkan winter sets in. The spinners were incandescent. There was "major nausea" around the building", according to one MOD insider.
The Number 10 spinners have kept control of the policy decisions, but their "Butcher of Belgrade" rhetoric got badly out of step with the White House calling for a negotiated solution. Just how Alastair Campbell and Oona Muirhead manage to spin President Clinton's repudiation of Tony Blair will be their biggest challenge of the war.
THE BRITISH Army has deployed almost a platoon's worth of what are termed "media handling officers" to Kosovo. Twenty nine captains and majors from around the Regular Army have been drafted in to escort Fleet Street's finest through the ruins of Kosovo.
Government Information Service press officers from the Ministry of Defence are also part of the British spin effort in Pristina, which has almost twice as many personnel as the NATO press centre in the Kosovo capital.
And the Downing Street spin doctors who led the war against Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic are still trying to run the show, even in the aftermath of the 79-day NATO air campaign.
The deaths of two Ghurkhas - a Nepalese engineer and officer - in an accident a week after the liberation of Kosovo plunged military relations with the Whitehall spin machine to a new low.
Number Ten's sticky fingers reached all the way to the KFOR press and information centre in Pristina's bomb-damaged sports centre to make sure the story being given out did not contradict the line from Downing Street.
Even though this line, that the soldiers had died defusing a Serb minefield, was rapidly taken over by accounts from the scene that unexploded NATO cluster bombs were to blame, British officers were instructed to refuse all comment until a very tightly worded statement had been agreed with Alistair Campbell. "We are not allowed to say anything that contradicts their statements," fumed a senior British officer, who said he felt they had no reason to keep information back.
At the following morning's daily press conference, Army spokesmen had to stonewall repeated questions about the origin of the cluster bombs, sticking to Alistair Campbell's line that they were "NATO weapons". Downing Street feared "friendly fire" headlines if the bombs were identified as British or American, particularly as President Clinton was visiting neighbouring Macedonia that day. The overriding priority was to smooth relations with the White House.
Tony Blair July 21, 1994, was declared the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party after handily winning a three-way election. He succeeded John Smith, who died in May. The announcement of his victory came at a mini party conference in London.
Blair, 41, was Labour's youngest leader ever. Active in politics since 1983, he had most recently served as shadow home secretary.
Blair won 57% of the total vote of an electoral college in which equal power was given to three groups--constituency party members (about 250,000 voters), party dues-paying union members (4.1 million) and a group consisting of Labour members of Parliament (269) and members of the European Parliament (62). His two challengers were the shadow employment secretary, John Prescott, and Margaret Beckett, the party's deputy leader under Smith and its acting leader since his death. Prescott received 24% of the vote, while Beckett trailed with 19%.
Prescott July 21, 1994, was elected deputy leader, replacing Beckett, who was left without an official party post.
Blair had emerged immediately following Smith's death as the preferred choice of most Labour voters. He was considered a moderate who would continue the trend--begun by his two predecessors, Neil Kinnock and Smith--to move the party away from its leftist roots and embrace more mainstream centrist policies. Prescott and Beckett were more closely allied with the party's left wing, and thus were considered less likely to seek reform or to appeal to a broad spectrum of Britons during a general election.
Beckett, in particular, had by consensus seriously damaged her candidacy when she publicly courted the party's left wing, in many cases indicating her opposition to certain party reforms deemed necessary by the majority of Labour voters. Her embrace of the left was also seen as the reason she was unable to retain her deputy leader post.
Blair Expected to Continue Reforms-- Blair was expected to continue efforts to reposition the party by reforming its constitution and stressing his commitment to issues that most concerned the overall electorate. He also had indicated that he would not necessarily support increased government intervention into industry or raise taxes to boost social spending, two traditional Labour policies. The Labour Party had been out of power since 1979; in the interim, it had lost three consecutive general elections to the Conservative Party, largely because of the Tories' ability to capitalize on fears that Labour remained beholden to trade unions, prone to raise taxes and out of touch with most Britons.
By virtue of his victory, Blair also became the early favorite to succeed Conservative Prime Minister John Major, who had to call a general election by mid-1997. Major and the Tories were deeply unpopular throughout Britain, even though the economy had begun to recover in recent months, and many political analysts doubted that the prime minister could retain his tenuous hold on power much longer.
According to a Market and Opinion Research International poll reported July 22, 1994, in the Times of London, the Tories were favored by just 23% of Britons, while Labour was supported by 51%. Britain's third major party, the Liberal Democrats, were the choice of 21% of poll respondents. Only one in 10 potential voters--and just 35% of declared Tories--were satisfied with the current government.
Major himself also remained unpopular; only about 20% of voters were satisfied with his performance as prime minister. About 75% of the public--and more than two-fifths of all declared Tories--were dissatisfied with Major. By comparison, the Liberal Democrats' leader, Paddy Ashdown, received positive ratings from 42% of potential voters, while only 28% of voters overall were dissatisfied with his performance as his party's leader.
In a previous MORI poll, reported in the June 24, 1994, Times, Blair was preferred over Major by a margin of two-to-one. Blair also was favored over Ashdown, whose party was expected to lose support to a resurgent Labour Party.
Blair Pledges Decentralization-- In speeches during the month-long campaign prior to his election, Blair voiced support for a variety of reform measures for Britain. He pledged to decentralize power to local governments, to increase devolution to England, Scotland and Wales, to abolish the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords and to boost human-rights conditions nationwide.
After winning the leadership contest, he said July 21, 1994, at a speech in London that the ruling Tories had "lost the nation's trust" and that it therefore was time to rebuild faith in government as an agent of progress. Blair's style and focus during the campaign had been compared frequently--often by the candidate himself--with that of U.S. President Clinton, who was a contemporary and had been elected in 1992 stressing similar themes.
The Practice of apologising appears to be spreading among politicians.
First we had Richard Holbrooke voicing regret for American wrongdoing towards Cyprus. Now Britons have been treated to the spectacle of their prime minister, Tony Blair, beating his breast over party funding.
True, in his live TV interview last Sunday Blair did not apologise for Labour's acceptance of one million pounds from Formula One racing chief Bernie Ecclestone. Neither did he say sorry for the party's apparent volte-face in exempting Formula One from the ban on tobacco advertising in sport. He vehemently denied that the two were in any way connected, angrily rejecting the suggestion that Labour had rewarded a political donor.
But he did acknowledge that Labour's presentation of the tobacco sponsorship issue had been mishandled and said: "I take full responsibility and I apologise for that."
Viewers might have been forgiven for feeling Blair's apology was mistargeted, that he was saying sorry for a venial sin while refusing to confess a major fault. Even so, coming from a politician, his words were startling; their like never passed the lips of Margaret Thatcher.
The most remarkable aspect of Blair's TV performance, though, was its amour propre, the prime minister's sense of wounded indignation. Blair said he had been "hurt and upset" by suggestions that he had been influenced by Ecclestone's million in diluting the ban on tobacco advertising. He stressed that he was "a pretty straight guy" who would never "do anything improper". He asked people to believe that he remained "the same person they believed in" at the general election. And in a ridiculous admission for a politician, he said: "I couldn't understand that anyone would impugn my motives in taking the decisions that I did."
In sum, Blair showed all the signs of someone who has come to believe his own publicity. He is the squeaky clean crusader who ousted a notoriously sleaze-ridden Tory government. His `New Labour' administration represents a fresh start in British political life, a move towards probity after years of graft and scandal. Tony himself is a notably devout and observant Christian. How could anyone possibly believe that he would act from anything other than impeccable motives?
What Blair has evidently forgotten is that the common and abundantly justified attitude towards all politicians, including himself, is mistrust, suspicion and cynicism. People are perfectly entitled to "impugn his motives". No politician's actions are self-authenticatingly honest or good. It is natural that voters will examine the deeds of all such beings for evidence of self-interest, backsliding or repaying favours.
And it is not as if Blair hasn't given the great British public ample cause for scepticism as to his sincerity in recent months. He has reneged on several pre-election manifesto pledges. First, there is the broken promise on fox-hunting. Labour's manifesto committed the party to "ensure greater protection for wildlife" and pledged "a free vote on whether hunting with hounds should be banned by legislation". The free vote is likely to go ahead and produce an overwhelming parliamentary majority for a ban. But it will come to nothing because Blair's government will refuse parliamentary time to enact the legislation.
Labour also made a pre-election promise to ban cosmetics testing on animals. But Blair's government, instead of imposing the blanket prohibition which polls show nearly 80 per cent of British voters want, has settled for a voluntary agreement with the cosmetics firms to end a minority of tests.
The story is the same with tobacco advertising. Labour's manifesto committed the government to a comprehensive ban, one covering the sponsorship of sporting events. But Blair's exemption of Formula One means that 90 per cent of the cigarette cash which goes into sport will remain unaffected.
And just this week we had Blair's social security minister, Harriet Harman, breaking a pre-election pledge to reverse Tory cuts in welfare payments to lone parents.
Against this catalogue of U-turns and abandoned commitments, it would be no surprise if Britons thought their prime minister habitually spoke with a forked tongue. Yet the remarkable thing is that Blair's pained performance as of one unjustly maligned has every chance of being taken at face value. Where Blair is concerned, many if not most British voters seem to have abandoned that instinctive bias towards incredulity which should initially greet the claims of all politicians. Several of my British friends, usually highly cynical about politicians, have surprised me by their starry-eyed view of New Labour and its leader. They are extremely reluctant to believe anything bad of Blair, going to great lengths to find extenuating circumstances for his conduct. It is hard not to accuse them of gullibility, especially as the list of broken promises gets longer. But I believe their charity is an understandable reaction to the years of Tory sleaze. It would simply be too painful for them to believe that having got rid of one bunch of scoundrels, the new lot were just as bad.
As a matter of fact, I don't believe Blair and New Labour are as bad, in the sense of `corrupt', as the previous Tory government. That is to say, I don't believe Blair dispenses political rewards in return for cash donations to Labour. Those who suspect his U-turn on tobacco advertising was a quid pro quo for Ecclestone's million pounds are following a false trail. His flip-flop was motivated by a fawning desire to prove to big business that Labour has changed, that under his leadership the party has abandoned all pretence to radical socialist policies, that he is a safe pair of hands. Since becoming Labour leader, Blair has shown a consistent desire to ingratiate himself with the rich and powerful (viz his hob-nobbing with Rupert Murdoch), and to distance himself from Labour's traditional working-class roots. The irony is that Blair would probably have reneged on his promised tobacco ban even if Ecclestone hadn't given Labour a penny. That in fact is effectively what has happened, seeing as Labour has decided to return Ecclestone's cash.
But Blair and New Labour are every bit as bad as the Tories so far as untrustworthiness goes. They are proven breakers of promises. Last week, Tony Blair implored voters to continue to believe in him. Why should they, when he has repeatedly failed to keep his word?
From Cyprus News
Thousands of people across Britain have been sadly disappointed by the first few months of New Labour's 'rule'. Its a far cry from 1945 when working people were charging down the street crying "...they're in, Labour are in!"
This time John Prescott's first major act was to privatise the tube and Gordon Brown gave up political control of money. The new cabinet give every appearance of being "Corporate Labour". So can they represent the interests of both bosses and workers?
Britain has the fastest widening gap between rich and poor of all the OECD countries and New Labour don't seem to care. They trumpet the virtues of a 'Stakeholder Society', yet say nothing about where the stake is for those that don't have a permanent job... which is something like 1/2 of the population. We are all being encouraged to fit in with a corporate agenda. Socialism is dead.
The fact is they had to get into bed with big business to get elected. For the simple reason that the vast majority of the media are corporate. Even the BBC board of governors have been appointed by Tories for the last 18 years so they're hardly going to look out for the working man.
Once they got into bed with them it was not quite so easy to get out! Labour has become a charade, spineless little puppets of our real masters who inhabit the corporate elite world, an echelon above politicians. This is not simply speculation, New Labour has for several years now agreed to go along to secret meetings with the Global Elite: Transnationals; The media; Banks. John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and now their supporters in the 'left wing' press, Wil Hutton at the Observer have all been to the clandestine Bilderberg meetings. We now have a national politics ruled by fear, fear of losing money, resources, our job, our mortgage, our home. Democracy has become a sinister charade and the only way to leave a future fit for our children to inherit will be to get back control of money creation and redistribute land resources to the people.
The latest addition to the cabinet shows how corrupt our system can be. Lord Simon was boss of BP and all of a sudden is made a life peer, resigns his former post and becomes a government minister. The public have had absolutely no say whatever in his appointment.
New Labour is the latest Public Relations company working for the Global Elite. They won the May 1997 contract for Britain which is due to run for five years.
Tough on soundbites, tough on the causes of soundbites New Labour and news management http://www.catalyst-trust.co.uk/catfrank.htm
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