There is no love lost between Blair and May

The vitriol in the PM's attack against Mr Blair over a new Brexit referendum reveals a disdain for him and his style of politics.

If you add up the majorities won by Labour in Tony Blair's three general election victories in 1997, 2001 and 2005, the combined total comes to 410.

Theresa May's one election as Conservative leader saw the Tories fall eight seats short of a majority, having won a majority of 12 under David Cameron in 2015.

So in pure electoral terms, Tony Blair is a winner - right up there with Labour giants Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson - and Theresa May is a loser, likely to go down in history as one of the Tories' least successful leaders.

But the comparison between these two very different party leaders doesn't end there. Even his detractors admit he's a class act. Even her admirers admit she lacks charisma.

As well as being a winner, Mr Blair has always been a showman. Despite her Abba dance at the Tory conference, the same cannot be said of Mrs May.

Mr Blair is the actor-politician in the mould of his great friend Bill Clinton. She is the down-to-earth, unflashy, workaholic who famously sneered at more extrovert politicians: "Politics is not a game."

He had brilliant - although flawed - communicators like Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell working for him. She often struggles to communicate and has been cruelly called "the Maybot" for her wooden public performances.

For all that, Mrs May has one big advantage over Mr Blair. No matter how badly Brexit turns out, she will never become as reviled in her own party after leaving office as Mr Blair has been because of the Iraq war.

And while Donald Trump may have held her hand at the White House, it's difficult to imagine the cautious Mrs May allowing herself and the UK to be dragged into a horrendous war by the US president.

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The vitriol in the prime minister's statement attacking her Labour predecessor over his campaign for a "People's Vote" reveals a disdain for him and his style of politics.

She accused him of being "an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served". Strong stuff. Normally prime ministers and former PMs are polite and respectful towards each other.

Mrs May's attack also reveals how rattled she is becoming as her Brexit nightmare gets worse and worse. Ever since her clash with jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels, he has had a face like thunder.

He seemed somewhat stung by the ferocity of her attack, saying he sympathised with her heavy burden and did not disrespect her. "I understand her frustration," he said. Patronising? Perhaps.

She's the vicar's daughter who went to a state school. He's the former Durham Cathedral chorister who went on to Fettes public school in Edinburgh and later married the step-daughter of the Coronation Street legend Pat Phoenix.

In their early careers there were some similarities. Both made their name in opposition with a number of front bench posts. Both were not afraid to challenge their party to modernise.

Tony Blair's first front bench job was a junior Treasury spokesman. At the time, I wrote that he was Labour's youngest front bencher since David Owen. He didn't like that, since Dr Owen had defected to the SDP.

But then, in a key move, he became shadow employment secretary, with a brief to sort out Labour's policy on trade unions. Later he became shadow home secretary, from which he won the Labour leadership when John Smith died in 1994.

Mr Blair's best known slogan at the time - "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" - was, according to supporters of Gordon Brown, thought up by Mr Brown, who was to be Mr Blair's friend, rival and enemy throughout his career.

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As prime minister, Mr Blair had it easy, with the luxury of majorities of 179, 167 and 64. The likes of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and their left-wing comrades could rebel night after night - and frequently did - and it didn't matter.

And when 139 Labour MPs defied Mr Blair in the big vote on the Iraq war in 2003, Iain Duncan Smith marched Tory MPs into the Aye lobby with him, ensuring a comfortable victory. How Mrs May must wish Labour MPs would vote for her Brexit deal now.

She, on the other hand, had to go cap in hand to the Democratic Unionists after last year's election, handing them a £1bn "bung" to prop up her government. And she has now discovered they are unreliable partners.

Not that Tony Blair was invincible in the Commons. After the 2005 election he suffered his first Commons defeat as PM, on 90-day detention for terror suspects, with 49 Labour MPs voting against him.

At PMQs before the vote he defiantly told MPs: "Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing." After pulling the Brexit vote last week, Theresa May clearly doesn't subscribe to the 2005 Blair doctrine.

Their personalities are very different, too. He's the extrovert who to this day boasts that a game of "keepy uppy" with Kevin Keegan when he was leader of the opposition was the best photo-opportunity he ever did. Brave, too.

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Theresa May's campaigning during last year's general election was uninspiring and her robotic answers to questions, particularly "nothing has changed" and "I've been very clear..." sapped what little energy there was out of her campaign.

In many ways, Theresa May is like Gordon Brown: vicar's daughter and son of the manse; both hard-working, dedicated and driven; and, of course, both unflashy PMs following a flashy predecessor - in his case Blair and in May's, David Cameron.

This weekend has confirmed that, even as we approach the season of goodwill, there's no love lost between the vicar's daughter and the former cathedral chorister.

 

December 16, 2018

Sources: Sky News

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    aker Nancy Pelosi, it was unclear if the twin developments represented serious steps toward resolving the nasty partisan fight or posturing. But they were the first tangible signs of movement in a dispute that has caused a partial government shutdown, which Saturday was entering its record 29th day.</p><p> Trump's refusal to sign spending bills that lack $5.7 billion he wants to start constructing that wall, which Democrats oppose, has prompted the shutdown.</p><p> The White House declined to provide details late Friday about what the president would be announcing. But Trump was not expected to sign the national emergency declaration he's been threatening as an option to circumvent Congress, according to two people familiar with the planning.</p><p> Instead, Trump was expected to propose the outlines of a new deal that the administration believes could potentially pave the way to an end to the shutdown, according to one of the people. They were not authorized to discuss the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.</p><p> The move, amid a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks, represents the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall. Democrats have said they will not negotiate until the government reopens, raising questions about how Trump might move the ball forward.</p><p> Democrats were proposing $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges, who currently face large backlogs processing cases, and $524 million to improve ports of entry in Calexico, California, and San Luis, Arizona, the Democratic House aide said. The money is to be added to spending bills, largely negotiated between the House and Senate, that the House plans to vote on next week.</p><p> In addition, Democrats were working toward adding money for more border security personnel and for sensors and other technology to a separate bill financing the Department of Homeland Security, but no funds for a wall or other physical barriers, the aide said.</p><p> It was possible Democrats would unveil that measure next week as the cornerstone of their border security alternative to Trump's wall, the aide said. Earlier Friday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee's homeland security subcommittee, said in an interview that some Democrats were asking leaders, "What is our plan?"</p><p> The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the details publicly. The Democrats' spending plans were first reported by The New York Times.</p><p> In a video posted on his Twitter feed late Friday, Trump said both sides should "take the politics out of it" and "get to work" to "make a deal." But he also repeated his warnings, saying: "We have to secure our southern border. If we don't do that, we're a very, very sad and foolish lot."</p><p> While few would argue that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding at the U.S.-Mexico border, as the demand for entry by migrants and the Trump administration's hardline response overwhelm border resources, critics say Trump has dramatically exaggerated the security risks and argue that a wall would do little to solve existing problems.</p><p> Trump will be speaking from the Diplomatic Room at 3 p.m.</p><p> Trump's Friday evening tweeted announcement came after Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday canceled her plans to travel by commercial plane to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying Trump had caused a security risk by talking about the trip. The White House said there was no such leak.</p><p> It was the latest turn — and potentially the most dangerous — in the high-stakes brinkmanship between Trump and Pelosi that has been playing out against the stalled negotiations over how to end the partial government shutdown.</p><p> And it showed once again the willingness of the former hard-charging businessman to hit hard when challenged, as he was earlier this week when Pelosi suggested postponing his State of the Union address until after the shutdown.</p><p> It was an unusually combative week between the executive and legislative branches.</p><p> Tensions flared when Pelosi suggested Trump postpone the annual State of the Union address, a grand Washington tradition — and a platform for his border wall fight with Democrats — that was tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29.</p><p> Trump never responded directly. Instead, he abruptly canceled Pelosi's military flight on Thursday, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on the previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops.</p><p> Trump belittled the trip as a "public relations event" — even though he had just made a similar stop in a conflict zone during the shutdown — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.</p><p> Pelosi, undeterred, quietly began making her own preparations for the overseas trip.</p><p> But on Friday, Pelosi said her plan to travel by commercial plane had been "leaked" by the White House.</p><p> "The administration leaked that we were traveling commercially," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. She said it was "very irresponsible on the part of the president."</p><p> She said the State Department told her "the president outing" the original trip made the scene on the ground in Afghanistan "more dangerous because it's a signal to the bad actors that we're coming."</p><p> The White House said it had leaked nothing that would cause a security risk.</p><p> Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president, traveling to a combat region — is very rare.</p><p> Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plan, calling it "completely and utterly irresponsible in every way."</p><p> Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, "One sophomoric response does not deserve another." He called Pelosi's State of the Union move "very irresponsible and blatantly political" but said Trump's reaction was "also inappropriate."</p><p> For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. government shutdown: https://apnews.com/GovernmentShutdown </p><p> Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Kevin Freking, Jon Lemire, Matthew Daly, Andy Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick, Matt Lee, Lolita C. Baldor and Alan Fram contributed to this report.</p>

    1 January 19, 2019

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