Daily Archives: September 1, 2010

Jim Pickard

Here is the story on ft.com about Hague denying allegations about his sexuality. Meanwhile this has just been put out by Press Association:

Here is the full personal statement issued on behalf of Foreign Secretary William Hague:

I feel it is necessary to issue this personal statement in response to press and internet speculation over the last ten days.

Earlier this year a Sunday newspaper began questioning whether my marriage to Ffion was in trouble, and last week another media outlet asked whether there was a statement about our supposed separation. This seemed to be linked to equally untrue speculation surrounding the appointment of Christopher Myers as a Special Adviser.

Christopher Myers has demonstrated commitment and political talent over the last eighteen months. He is easily qualified for the job he holds. Any suggestion that his appointment was due to an improper relationship between us is utterly false, as is any suggestion that I have ever been involved in a relationship with any man.

 

Kiran Stacey

No time to read the full Blair memoirs? Never fear, we’ve crunched it into five handy paragraphs for you:

The first MP I ever met was Michael Spicer, who was introduced to me by my father. He and my father were both Tories, and I admired them, but I soon realised they were wrong.

I began to have premonitions, and realised it was my duty – my destiny – to lead the Labour party and the country. I changed the party, I made us electable and I defeated the Tories. For my first act in power, I decided to make the Bank of England independent. Gordon might tell you it was his idea, but he is wrong.

 

George Parker, political editor, reviews the long-awaited autobiography of Tony Blair, commenting on its lack of contrition and the ex-premier’s attack on his former friend and colleage, Gordon Brown. 

The FT’s Westminster team live blogs the launch of Tony Blair’s memoirs.  

JP = Jim Pickard  KS = Kiran Stacey GP = George Parker

11.53 KS – There’s still a little more mileage yet to come from the book, so we’ll continue live-blogging until lunchtime. But we’ll be moving onto a new post now, so please stay with us.

11.40 JP – Blair reveals details of the “arctic meeting” with Brown over pensions reform, which ended up with his chancellor allegedly resorting to political threats to try to get his way.

Brown opposed Adair Turner’s proposals for pension reforms; Blair supported them. So Brown made a proposal: if Blair abandoned his support for the pension reforms, Brown would agree not to call for an Labour party inquiry into the “cash for honours” affair which threatened to overwhelm the Blair premiership.

“The temperature, already well below freezing point, went arctic,” Blair recalls, adding that some things said at this “ugly” meeting are better not put into print.

In the event, Blair decided to push ahead with the reforms and two hours later Jack Dromey, Labour’s treasurer, put out a statement calling for an inquiry. “I don’t know for a fact that Gordon put Jack up to it,” says Blair. But it’s clear where his suspicions lie.

11.30 JP – Sometimes working in Westminster it is extremely hard to work out where a rumour has come from, whether it is genuine and so on. The same seems to be true even for those at the top.

Blair recalls the “bizarre” time that Andrew Smith resigned as work and pensions secretary in 2004 to escape being sacked. Except Blair had no plan to fire him. “So wound up was he that he obviously didn’t believe it and said, no, he really preferred to go rather than suffer the indignity of being sacked.” 

Jim Pickard

This morning’s papers, blogs, radio and TV will be full of insights into the Blair biography and what it can tell us about the mind of the prime minister who won three terms for Labour.

Key lines include: 1] He believes that Gordon Brown abandoned the principles of New Labour, which led to this summer’s electoral defeat; 2] if he had sacked GB it would have destabilised the government and made matters worse; 3] he can’t regret the decision to go to war in Iraq, although it leaves him with nightmares.

Unfortunately it also reveals that he is a lousy writer. Reading through the chapter on Northern Ireland, you can’t help but be struck by the clunky way in which he strings sentences together. The impression is of a motivational speaker and part-time preacher trying to sound both philosophical and matey at the same time. And that grates.

The best political autobiographies make you feel that you are in the room with the writer, hearing verbatim conversations and watching history unfold one-to-one. This one doesn’t. It will be astonishing if Random House recoup their £4.6m book advance.