Lest we forget: the Blair years revisited


Time moves quickly. When I was looking for slides for an operation that I thought I’d done two years ago at the most, I found it was actually five years that had passed. It’s nearly 7 years since Dave became PM but  it frequently seems like only yesterday. The other side of the tempus fugit coin though is that significant events, and the relevant knowledge that they provide, slip away in the memory all too quickly.

The current drivel regarding Russia is a perfect example. When I was a lad Russia was only a bogeyman because of its central place in the Soviet communist empire, which fell apart twenty six years ago, roughly. That was why we had a Cold War, not because Russia = Bad. Whether we like it or not, Russia (and Iran/Persia) are big powerful proper countries (unlike say Iraq), with very long histories and very distinct identities. We would be mad to not talk to them, to assume a relationship of permanent enmity. That’s not to say you should trust them, it’s strictly business.


You would guess none of the above from the hysteria that passes as foreign policy debate in much of the media.

Likewise, it’s salutary to remember that Britain was run by complete chancers for a long period – the Blair/Brown Terror – which seems pretty fresh in my memory, for lots of reasons, but if you are a first time voter this year, you were about 8 when we finally got rid of Blair and reasonably enough you would be unlikely to have useful political memories of the time.

Which brings me to an absolute zinger of a piece by the venerable Peter Oborne in today’s paper. He is reflecting on the nefarious past of an A1 hypocrite and member of the Blair Fixer Triumvirate, the other members of which were Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell, both sadly still making themselves available for their tired commentary. I refer to Jonathan Powell, Blair’s smooth and somewhat sleazy chief of staff.

Oborne provides a very timely synopsis of much that was wrong then, and hopefully we can learn, or relearn, the relevant lessons of corrupt cliquey government and its abuse. I can only quote a few gems, but do read the whole piece. Its relevance to the current EU debate is very striking:

I was a junior political reporter in the early years of the Blair government. I can testify that it was disgracefully responsible for systematically setting about destroying the career of any civil servant who was not prepared to be unthinkingly loyal to New Labour — and then replacing those who refused with trusted Labour cronies….

….Within days of winning power in 1997, Tony Blair bullied pliant civil servants into waving through special laws which gave Powell the power to give orders to top civil servants.

It is no exaggeration to say that Powell’s relationship to civil service integrity could be compared to that of serial killer GP Harold Shipman’s to medical ethics — or gangster Al Capone’s to law and order. From the moment he entered Downing Street with Blair in 1997 to the moment they left together ten years later, Powell worked ceaselessly to undermine and destroy it….

The brutal truth is that during the Blair Years, Powell’s conduct was scurrilously partisan and he constantly flouted codes of honesty and decency.

Time and time again, he was caught up in the most putrid corruption scandals. Lies about the threat posed by Saddam. The stench of the Hinduja passports scandal when Labour was said to have helped two billionaire Indian brothers obtain British passports after giving £1 million to the Millennium Dome — leading to Peter Mandelson’s resignation. The scandal over Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone’s £1 million donation to Labour.

Powell was always lurking, playing a key role.

If anybody brought back to British public life the corruption and ‘jobbery of the 17th and 18th century’, it was Powell and his friends Blair, Mandelson and Alastair Campbell. Indeed, an illustrated ‘map of power’ in Downing Street at the height of the Blair years, showed Powell at the apex.

His No. 10 empire — in a clear breach of the civil service ethics which Powell told the BBC yesterday he cared so much about — stretched to include power over the prime minister’s private secretary.

And who occupied that position when Powell held most sway at No 10? None other than a rising young civil servant called Ivan Rogers. What a small world we live in!

A brilliant piece that could only be written by someone who saw it all unfold at close quarters.

There are plenty of people now who tut tut about the Iraq lies and the subsequent war, but would have you believe that the other stuff from the Blair era was wonderful. Don’t be taken in….

…. remember kids, know your history!

The Blair/Campbell, courtesy of Martin Rowson

Blair’s via dolorosa

This blog began with a piece suggesting Tony Blair was genuinely troubled by his disastrous Iraq mess, probably more by the consequences than the lying that got us into it. The Knife still thinks that Blair is nothing like as comfortable about it as he appears to be. A grim hint of this appeared here.

When the splendid satirical drama-documentary The Trial of Tony Blair came out, in early 2007, when Blair was actually still PM, he had become massively unpopular, and clearly knew it. Much as I enjoyed Robert Lindsay’s rendition of Blair’s peculiar gibbering manner, it was of course satire. Genuine biting satire, not the smug Have I Got News For You rubbish.

It’s never really gone away though. From my lofty vantage point as one who always thought Blair was a bizarre con trick – though I never thought he and his mates would be quite as bad as they turned out to be – I welcome all the repentant sinners who did vote him in, three times, and now won’t get off his back.

Hence a certain pleasure at the latest iteration in the Daily Mail, on how Blair might indeed end up in the dock, a theme currently being pursued by an unlikely combination of notorious chancers, Desmond Tutu and the SNP.

Given that one of Blair’s greatest domestic crimes was to inflict the unholy triad of Campbell, Mandelson and Brown on an unsuspecting nation, I particularly liked this bit:

In desperation, Blair called up his old attack dog, Alastair Campbell, whose alleged role in the sexing up of two crucial dossiers filled with unsubstantiated claims about Saddam Hussein’s threat to the UK had been so controversial.

Blair begged his old press secretary to launch a full-on media assault against Mrs Smith, aimed at trashing her reputation, just as so many other humble opponents of New Labour had been smeared.

But the ploy backfired. A remarkably well-informed blog about the call appeared on a popular political website.

Had Campbell sensed which way the wind was blowing, and leaked the information? Whatever, within minutes it was trending on Twitter. And that’s when public disgust turned to fury.

It became politically impossible for the Crown Prosecution Service to deny Mrs Smith her day in court.

Alastair Campbell, ruthless, lying and self-preserving? Surely not.

Campbell had been out to buy eggs

No surprise there, then..

This blog has never been a fan of Tony Blair, and The Knife couldn’t stand him way back in 1996, when it was obvious that he and his then friend Brown were soon going to waltz into Downing St, with the unique double whammy of a massive majority and unbelievably favourable economic conditions. It took them 10 years to really wreck the economy, things were so rosy at the start.

I got a lot of abuse from the “anyone but the Tories” crowd at that time, most of whom were genuinely taken by Blair. He visited our hospital once, back then. One of the doctors’ on call rooms was converted into a little lounge for coffee and biscuits for him and entourage. I was just observing how much taller he was than I’d expected, when I was grabbed by the Health Minister – as I was wearing a white coat – with the words “let’s go and see some real patients”. I showed him round the outpatient clinic and went round the waiting room where he shook everyone’s hand manically. The last patient looked at him grumpily and barked “I’ve been sitting here for two hours, and what are you going to do about it”  which the minister heard, completely ignored, and shot out of the door.

I digress. While I never could stand Blair – and I recommend Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s masterly Yo Blair! for some of the other reasons why – I would concede that he’s an intriguing figure these days, which is how this blog first started.

However, things have drifted badly for Blair. There is no magic act in the Middle East – most people there hate him, understandably – and his own buddies have continued to disown him. He damages what’s left of his reputation by keeping in with two of the three most poisonous figures of British public life since the second world war – Mandelson and Campbell (the third, of course, is Gordon).  I don’t mind his obvious fondness for wealth one bit, but he does get it from some dodgy sources. One of his long time cheerleaders, Nick Cohen, has had enough:

Tim Allan, Blair’s former media adviser and Portland’s founder, recruited his old friend, Alastair Campbell, last week. A few months before, a Financial Times reporter spotted Campbell at the airport at Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. He wondered what had brought Campbell from his London home to a flyblown central Asian dictatorship. Campbell would not say if his visit had anything to do with Blair’s latest business dealings. Few would be surprised if it had because Blair’s dealings are extensive.

As one astonished and disgusted former supporter put it: “If you want to know what price a great man will sell his legacy for, it’s $13m.” According to the Financial Times, that is the sum that President Nursultan Nazarbayev has paid for Blair’s services. His old gang is along for the ride and eager to see what an oil-rich dictatorship, which shoots strikers, burns the offices of opposition parties and kills their leaders, can offer.

As well as the enigmatic Campbell circling the carousels at Astana airports, a spokesman for Portland told me that it was “reforming Kazakhstan’s communications”. Sir Richard Evans, formerly of BAE Systems, who was once described as “one of the few businessmen who can see Blair on request”, now chairs the £50bn Kazakh state enterprise Samruk and it in turn hires Peter Mandelson to deliver speeches.

The regime is grateful and not just for the uses the Blairites’ support can be put to abroad. Like every other dictatorship, Kazakhstan wants to show its subjects that foreigners, who have no reason to fear the secret police, endorse the regime of their own free will. The backing of outsiders makes them seem more powerful and their propaganda sound more plausible. (It is for this reason that George Galloway has been such a popular figure in the presidential palaces of the Middle East.)….

..His back is turned now and the plain speaking has gone. He won’t explain why he’s helping the Kazakh dictator present a better face to the west. Apparently, he has said that he is not personally profiting from appearing in a propaganda video praising the dictatorship’s “progress” and hymning its “extraordinary economic potential”. (I say apparently because his office would not respond to my repeated inquiries.) But it is beyond doubt that his commitment to democracy is now as flimsy as any relativist’s: free elections may be good enough for the people of Britain, but the Kazakhs cannot expect to enjoy the same privileges.

Blair’s mindless admiration of wealthy men explains his decline. In the 21st century, they tend to be dictators with sovereign wealth funds and tame oligarchs to command, or financiers. No surprise, then, that as well as advising Kazakhstan, Blair also advises JP Morgan.

His love of money has brought down the worst fate that could have befallen him. He now has the manners and morals of his opponents. He has become a George Galloway with a Learjet at his disposal.

Have a look at this to get a flavour of Kazakhstan. How much money does he need?


Alex Salmond: three years…three months, what’s the difference?

Ha! He’s finally gone Kenny. Brilliant!

This blog has been getting a lot of hits today, because of a certain obsession with Abdelbaset Mohmmed Ali Al-Megrahi, for example this, and the most popular and more serious  one, here.

Poor old Megrahi, who for what it’s worth I doubt was “innocent”, albeit he was just part of a more complex picture, was convicted in a proper court, and that was never overturned, or seriously challenged. Nevertheless, our elected politicians, from devious chancers like Blair, Mandelson and Jack Straw, to sad dupes like Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill decided to shaft the Lockerbie victims, their families, and the nation, for their own ends.***

The egregious Salmond must be breathing a sigh of relief, now. Here’s what he said today:

“Our first thoughts are with the families of the Lockerbie atrocity, whose pain and suffering has been ongoing now for over 23 years.

“Today’s news was not unexpected – Mr Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, which was the basis on which he was released. His death does, however, put to rest some of the conspiracy theories which have attempted to suggest that his illness was somehow manufactured – today’s news confirms what we have always said about his medical condition.

Really Eck, really?

today’s news confirms what we have always said about his medical condition.” No, you actually said at the time that he’d peg it within 3 months. When your first thoughts were clearly notwith the families of the Lockerbie atrocity, whose pain and suffering has been ongoing now for over 23 years.”

What a disaster. Now that Labour has semi-divested itself of the whole Blair/Mandelson axis, the newish Labour Scottish leader, Johann Lamont, put it well:

“Megrahi was convicted by a Scots court, under Scots law, of the greatest act of mass murder in Scottish history.

“Three years ago the Scottish government chose to release him on the pretext he had just three months to live. That was an insult to the victims.

“At this moment let me, on behalf of the people of Scotland, apologise to the families of all the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, for his early release.”


***This article is a superb summary of the case

Frankly, who gives a ****?

Small group of unmemorable smug men who are neither a court of law nor a judicial enquiry, decide they don’t like someone. And still cock up the verdict….would be the correct headline for a report on yesterday’s much trumpeted conclusion by…wait for it…the “Culture Select Committee”

Rupert Murdoch is “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”, proclaimed half of the committee, after not actually deliberating that question.

Ouch. I bet that hurt.


The Knife doesn’t, and never has, given a toss about the faux tears of Steve Coogan, Sienna Miller, and every other nonentity who craves publicity one week and moans about it the next. Even the more serious issue of Milly Dowler’s voicemails has turned out to be an inaccurate accusation.

In not giving a toss I feel that I represent the views of the majority of the Sky viewing Sun reading nation. Really, the pudgy hypocrite  Tom Watson’s self-satisfied money making plans for Labour party domination are not a fit and proper use of our Parliamentarians’ time, not if laws have been broken. That’s actually what the police and judiciary are for.

A superb piece in Spiked manages to be both elegant and ferocious in deconstructing the whole Murdoch-is-an-evil-global-mastermind myth. Part of it may have been concocted by Murdoch around the 1992 election. Most of it was created by the other Axis of Evil: Blair-Campbell-Mandelson, in the dark days of the late 1990’s, Gordon and Dave just cravenly followed suit.

Murdoch is making big money, his company supports him explicitly, the public likes his product. Seriously, who cares? This is a blind alley for all the demented Murdoch bashers out there, mostly in the Labour party. As the years roll on on, I trust  and hope that Murdoch won’t fail to highlight the “quirks” of these self obsessed individuals. Men like Keith Vaz, and the hubristic Watson have plenty to hide.   After all, no publicity is bad publicity.

***Declaration of interest. The Knife reads the Sun, and so does everyone else in the doctors’ mess. He watches Sky TV. He also reads the Guardian, just to see what the enemy are up to.

The Concubine: part 9


Off to the banya...

Some stories are intrinsically perfect for their subject. Regarding “Lord” Mandelson:

Mr Rothschild, 40, a financial adviser to Mr Deripaska, has launched a libel action against the Daily Mail over a 2010 article which he claimed painted him as a ‘puppet-master’ who had exploited his personal friendship with the former Labour spin doctor to impress the oligarch.

The hedge fund manager denied the Siberia trip was ‘inappropriate’, despite it including a visit to Mr Deripaska’s  aluminium factory ahead of a European Commission decision on aluminium imports to Europe.

He told the High Court: ‘The whole point of the Siberia trip was that we went there, we spent a nano-second at this smelter, we then went to the most delightful banya [a traditional Russian steam bath] where we were beaten by a 25-year-old banya-keeper man who has spent his life perfecting the art of the banya.

‘Then we jumped into ice-cold water.  It’s the best way in the world to cure  jetlag and everything else. It was incredibly enjoyable.’

Mr Rothschild said he invited Lord Mandelson to join the trip because he was a close personal friend and he knew he had never visited Siberia….

‘Deripaska was my friend, Mandelson was my friend, this was a recreational trip. Deripaska’s desire to develop a relationship with Mandelson was because Mandelson was an interesting, highly intelligent, fantastic guy.’

Of course! Everyone should visit Siberia to be “beaten by a 25-year-old banya-keeper man”. No impropriety there.  Sexual impropriety I mean. Dodgy business dealings I couldn’t take a view on.

The Concubine: part 8

There is a lot of talk in the press about the Gaddafis and New Labour, particularly the egregious Mandelson. Take Fraser Nelson’s interview with the Lord:

Peter Mandelson:I’m trying not to be disingenuous or hysterical, I mean I did go to dinner with Jacob and Serena [Rothschild] and they did invite other people and Mr Gaddafi did appear at the pudding and I did sit him down and talk to him about something.

Fraser Nelson: So how do you regard him?

PM: I don’t regard him as an alright chap or a bad chap, I mean how can you judge?

FN: I thought you knew him a little?

PM: [sarcastically] Oh yes, I know him really well. I mean how do you know what he’s like? I don’t know, I’ve met the chap three times, once in a formal meeting, once briefly in Corfu – because again I arrived at 11 o’clock at night and he left at half past eight the next morning – and then briefly, the other night, two weeks ago

Or any of the Daily Mail pieces on the topic, understandably gleeful at the prospect of nailing Blair et al., when Saif blabs about his many “links” with the party.

While The Knife entirely agrees with these sentiments, there is a problem: he may be up against the wall, metaphorically and possibly soon, literally, but there are still a few people with whom you wouldn’t want to be publicly associated.

Mugabe? OK.

Chavez? Fine.

Hordes of paid for escorts? Fine too.

But Mandelson…. really, there are limits.

The penalty for consorting with Mandelson is death!

The Concubine: part 7…and lo, it came to pass.

Mandelson meets the Cabinet

Further to Knife predictions here and here, comes the news that the glorious Lord Mandelson is sniffing around for a job. One with perks and status naturally, Director General (of course) of the World Trade Organisation.

Mandelson is about as socialist as General Pinochet in reality, and could be quite effective at this sort of thing. He is also probably the least principled British politician in living memory (Huhne is too pathetic to count). However, unlike the unlamented Gordon Brown, he’s actually kissed and made up with the Coalition, no hard feelings George etc.

Inevitable really.

Lockerbie Picture special!!!!

Don't worry Muammar, I killed far more..
...unelected, self-obsessed, loathed by the citizens, staying in power is all that matters, etc etc etc..
...have you met Gerry Adams too?
...run that by me again...private army, tame cabinet, Swiss bank account, no elections...
This is bad for my image Tony...
...I decided not to blow this one up (an old Knife favourite)
Vote Labour!
Me? Never met him

Explosive news

Slightly under the radar, but two items of muslim terrorist news, albeit  one is a sort of  political terrorist, and the other is the bog standard kind.

Hi, meet the family!

Kicking off, contrary to recent reports, Abdelbaset Ali el-Megrahi is….er….still alive!

The Knife actually doesn’t wish the man ill, but the long long list of liars, stupid apologists, egomaniacs and hypocrites who wangled his release should hang their heads in shame for a bit longer.

It would be excessively cynical  to suggest that the exact timing of his death may depend on the  political climate viz Libya and the rest of the world.


Secondly, remember the justified furore over Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder’s plans to try Twin Towers uberbomber, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court in Manhattan? Well they’ve been fairly quietly shelved on a technicality.

The Knife takes the view that Guantanamo is effective, and is really just the Americans’ version of Colditz – they’re prisoners of war, not petty criminals. There might be innocent men there, but I doubt it. The stakes are a bit too high to fret about it, in the real world. At least one quarter of released inmates are involved in terrorism; other countries (understandably) don’t want these people in; when they do get out it causes huge problems and expense.

When one prisoner, Ahmed Ghailani, was tried in a civilian court, it proved almost impossible to deal with the case effectively. That case no doubt influenced the recent Democrat-backed budget legislation, which subtly included a clause which effectively banned the spending that would be required to bring the prisoners into the USA for detention and trial. Nice one!


Eric Holder claims to be upset, but I doubt it. Will Obama exercise his presidential veto? I doubt that too, he’s not that stupid.

The Knife is not a fan of waterboarding etc, nor do I support capital punishment (under any circumstances), but I certainly wouldn’t wish to bring the fun of a show trial to the increasingly hairy KSM, and his mates.

Military tribunals and Supermax for life would do it.

Think of it as a home from home