Goodbye & Good Luck. Sorry.

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21st June 2012

(Updated 22nd June 2012)

FYI: blog post following is the last post, and those from previous 6 months or so, as at the blog formerly known as Keep Tony Blair For PM (no longer accessible.)

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As someone once said  “it’s hard to let go”, but needs must. I need to earn a living and this ‘hobby’ is life-consuming.

Many thanks to all who have followed this blog for the last (almost) 6 years. But, priorities, priorities. My twitter account will also be closing. My apologies in particular go to Shane & the rest of the faithful Blairites (of all parties and none) that I have had the good fortune to have met online.

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@DannyHackett: Where is Tony Blair? #assk” >Ask the expert 😉 >— @blairsupporter #topbloke We miss Blair

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It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday

I know it’s not quite a funeral. Forgive me if I admit it feels a bit like that.

Those of you still interested in watching what Tony Blair is up to could do no better than follow my good friend John Rentoul if you don’t already. Recent post of his here –  ‘I’ll have that on my gravestone: “Not far wrong”’

And JR will be reporting some more on Alastair Campbell’s book launch (The Burden of Power – of which I have a signed copy – thanks Alastair) at St Mary’s University last night, organised by The Mile End Group. (Video & transcript here)

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Alastair Campbell on Twitter and John Rentoul at same place – Mile End Group

The best of luck to you all.

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Dying for a smoke?

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12th June 2012

A view none of us, smokers or not, is ever likely to see. Hopefully!

This is a ceiling mural in a Smokers’ Lounge.

PUBLIC TOILET

A public toilet in Houston from the outside

Now that you’ve seen the outside view, take a look at the inside view…


It’s made entirely of one-way glass! No one can see you from the outside, but when you are inside it’s like sitting in a clear glass box! Now would you… COULD YOU….???
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A PAINTED BATHROOM FLOOR

Tenth floor of a high-rise building… IMAGINE YOU ARE AT A PARTY … AND THEN YOU HAVE TO VISIT THE BATHROOM… You open the door…

NOW, REMEMBER THE FLOOR IS JUST A PAINTED FLOOR ! (scroll down)

IT TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY, DOESN’T IT?

Would this mess up your mind? Would you be able to walk into this room?

That reminds me. Back to Leveson.

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Al Qaeda To Go On Strike

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9th June 2012

YouGorraLarf Saturday!

Strike action. Al Qaeda To Go On Strike

Muslim suicide bombers in Britain are set to begin a three-day strike next Monday in a dispute over the number of virgins they are entitled to in the afterlife. Emergency talks with Al Qaeda have so far failed to produce an agreement.

The unrest began last Tuesday when Al Qaeda announced that the number of virgins a suicide bomber would receive after his death will be cut by 25% this April from 72 to only 60. The rationale for the cut was the increase in recent years of the number of suicide bombings and a subsequent shortage of virgins in the afterlife. The Suicide Bombers’ Union aka the British Organisation of Occupational Martyrs (or B.O.O.M.) responded with a statement that this was unacceptable to its members and immediately balloted for strike action.

General Secretary Abdullah Amir told the press, “Our members are literally working themselves to death in the cause of Jihad. We don’t ask for much in return but to be treated like this is like a kick in the teeth”. Speaking from his shed in Tipton in the West Midlands in which he currently resides, an Al Qaeda chief executive explained, “We sympathise with our workers’ concerns but Al Qaeda is simply not in a position to meet their demands. They are simply not accepting the realities of modern-day Jihad in a competitive marketplace. Thanks to Western depravity, there is now a chronic shortage of virgins in the afterlife. It’s a straight choice between reducing expenditure and laying people off.  I don’t like cutting wages but I’d hate to have to tell 3000 of my staff that they won’t be able to blow themselves up.”

Spokespersons for the union in Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Essex, Glasgow and Australia stated that they would be unaffected as there are no virgins in these areas anyway. Apparently the drop in the number of suicide bombings has been largely put down to the emergence of the Scottish singing star, Susan Boyle. Now that Muslims know what a virgin looks like, they are not so keen on going to paradise.

[Apologies to the great Susan Boyle. Probably shouldn’t point this out – but you may be very wise.]

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Tony Blair on Philanthropy

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20th April 2012

Catch-up time on a busy week for Tony Blair on the other side of the pond, including this –

If the Mail, Guardian, Independent, BBC & the rest haven't told you of this award for our great former PM, well... what do you expect? The truth?

Keynote speech: Tony Blair outlines his philanthropic vision

Monday, Apr 16, 2012 in Office of Tony Blair, Africa Governance Initiative

Tony Blair speaking at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington, DC made the case for the value of innovative philanthropy. You can read the full transcript of his speech below.

Video of speech & questions, & transcript of speech

A consequential risk of the continuing travails of the global economy, is that in concentrating on our own challenges, we lose the appetite to help others. What we may call the global social contract – a sense of responsibility on the part of the better off to help the worst off – comes under strain. For my 10 years as UK Prime Minister, this social contract was growing. But that was in different economic times. Now the pre-occupation is bound to be internal. So a debate about how we re-shape and re-invigorate this global social contract now – and the role of philanthropy in doing so – is timely. This is absolutely the right moment for government to do all it can to promote philanthropy; and certainly nothing to harm it.

The laziest sentiment in politics – by which I mean not politics in its partisan sense but the broader polity of society – is cynicism. The party political debate may, at times, give us much to be cynical about, though it is an essential part of vibrant democracy. But in larger terms, the history of the past half century should give us cause for celebration as well as concern. Many more people live in freedom, many fewer live in poverty.

Change for the better does happen. Progress is alive. Change happens through committed people. It happens best when motivated by a desire to improve the lives of others; when that desire is accompanied by a strategy for change not just a vision of it; when it is creative; and when it challenges rather than accommodates the status quo.

Change can happen through committed people in Government and some change can only happen through Government. When I think, in my own 10 years in office, of reforms in health, education, law and order; advances in civil rights; peace in Northern Ireland – these changes required the power of Government.

However, 10 years taught me something else; the limitations of Government. This is where desire and strategy get blocked by the politics of vested interests; by bureaucracy; by the innate tendency to inertia of a system designed to manage the world not change it.

Government in this guise, loves process. It rewards caution. It disdains risk and distrusts creativity. It thinks in a linear way and challenges that don’t fit neat Government definitions or which stretch across boundaries, disappear into the machinery never to re-emerge and certainly not as solutions.

When acute crisis threatens, Government can act with speed. But otherwise it ponders endlessly and then proceeds at a glacial pace.

It is into this space – not as a substitute but as a complement to conventional Government and politics – that the philanthropic sector has marched. Today its contribution is vast. In the USA it dwarfs, say, Government spending on overseas aid. It is why imaginative leaders like Raj Shah, new head of USAID, want to work with it not apart from it.

It is why when I left office, shorn of power, I decided to exercise influence instead, by joining it.

As well as my responsibility as Quartet Representative for the MEPP, centred in Jerusalem, I created three new philanthropic organisations. I have a Sports Foundation in the North East of England which encourages grass roots sport and reflects my belief that sport is an essential not optional element of modern education. The two global Foundations are the Africa Governance Initiative; and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Both reflect lessons I learned in Government but in respect of which I found traditional ways of Government inadequate. Both relate directly to the new social contract that is the theme of this year’s Forum. Both have taught me a lot about global philanthropy and its opportunities.

The Africa Governance Initiative is based on this idea: that the problems of Africa cannot be solved by aid alone. The fundamental challenge today is not simply external flows of money; but internal systems of Governance. What’s more, this is not just about honesty in Government, vital thought that is, it is also about efficacy. The biggest challenge for many Governments – by the way, elsewhere as well as in Africa – is getting things done; delivery; deciding priorities, creating mechanisms for achieving them and tracking the performance until the objective is actually achieved. This is true even for sophisticated systems of Government like our own. It is true in abundance for those of emerging countries. I see too often leaders take power. They have the will and vision. They may be completely honest and abhor corruption. But once in power, they find the levers of effective implementation are missing; they get overwhelmed by the pressures of the job, events for which they are unprepared; and a bureaucracy that can often be a major part of the problem not the solution. They usually have a stack of well-written reports from international institutions telling them what they should do; but no-one helping them with how they do it. And it is the ‘how’ not the ‘what’ that is the issue.

So my Africa Governance Initiative –now in 6 African nations – puts teams of people; all of whom have hands-on experience of ‘doing it’, whether in Government of the private sector; into the country to work alongside the country’s leaders to build the necessary capacity and transfer skills: to decide priorities; develop plans of action; build the infrastructure of implementation; and track performance. The results in areas as diverse as healthcare, encouragement of private sector investment and even in seemingly small but in truth crucial areas like the organisation of the President’s time and private office, are transformative.

But the concept at the heart of it, is very different from the traditional donor-recipient relationship of Government aid. It is live-in technical help, not fly-in fly out consultancy. It helps deliver the country’s priorities not ours. It includes, through my interaction with the leaders, the politics as well as the technical theory. It works to bring in quality private sector investment, not regard it as an enemy. If focuses as much on the rule of law as on small scale community projects. Above all, it is based on partnership not dependence. In this sense, it absolutely fits the notion of a new social contract. It implies a maturing of the relationship between wealthy and emerging nations; and the role of philanthropy and the private sector in helping those nations to help themselves. So the value lies not just in the work AGI does, but in the approach it symbolises.

Likewise with my Faith Foundation. Again this idea was formed during my time in Government. Even before 9/11 and certainly since then, I could see that the use of hard power and even the use of traditional systems of soft power were inadequate to deal with a strain of fundamentalist ideology that was religious in nature. I started to understand that however much we flinched from acknowledging it, the extremism was not based simply on a set of political aims; it was based on a profound distortion of Faith. I began to analyse conflict in the world and found the majority had a religious or cultural element. I became convinced that we could not confront the extremism unless we were prepared to engage with religion as religion, not as a derivative of politics.

I could also see that driven by the unstoppable force of globalisation – in person through migration, online through the internet – it is in the nature of today’s world that people of different cultures and faiths will mix together, live together and work together as never before. Therefore understanding the faith of the other, learning about it and learning to live with it in peace becomes a central objective of a policy to secure peace. In this way, a new part of a new social contract, is respect for difference, for diversity, for the minority’s rights as well as the majority’s power.

In the years since 9/11 and again following the Arab Revolutions around the Middle East and North Africa, my conviction as to the importance of this has grown. What’s more, though those peddling a poisonous and exclusivist view of religion, which sees those who have a different faith as the enemy, are immensely well organised and funded, with a multiplicity of websites dedicated to their cause; by contrast virtually nothing organised or funded comes the other way. So a wholly malign view of the West is often fostered in Muslim nations; and in the West there is widespread misunderstanding of what Islam really stands for. This is not confined to Muslim/Christian relations; there are strains of extremism also in Christianity itself, in Judaism, Hinduism and even Buddhism. The intolerance to minorities also encompasses persecution of Bahais and sects within a Faith i.e. intra-religious as well as inter-religious extremism.

So the Tony Blair Faith Foundation has designed programmes of education and action, now in 20 different countries, all with the aim of fostering knowledge, understanding and therefore respect between those of different faiths. We know we cannot by ourselves change the balance of argument and debate; but we believe we can show that through inter-faith collaboration, we can encourage the acceptance of “the other” and that this should become part of mainstream Government and international policy, every bit as important as conventional soft power diplomacy. So in both cases, I have entered a new sector for me – philanthropy – to try to point the way on issues which I dealt with deeply in Government but in respect of which I always felt traditional Government fell short.

It has been my luck to have entered this field at a time when it is more exciting and dynamic than ever. The work being done by those represented here today is extraordinary and inspiring in its breadth, reach and impact. My reflections on the sector having now experience of it both as a partner to me in Government and now as a player in the sector itself, are these:

First, the best philanthropy is not just about giving money but giving leadership. The best philanthropists bring the gifts that made them successful – the drive, the determination, the refusal to accept something can’t be done if it needs to be – into their philanthropy. It is creative not passive; it seeks to disrupt not follow conventional thinking. It steps into areas Government is too fearful or too risk adverse[sic] to go. It uses technology and its power to change the world in innovative ways. It is visionary, seeing the connections, the trends, the patterns that others don’t.

It is change-making, no matter at which level –community, nation or globe – it is operating.

In this way, it can also help Government institutions, again global or national, to change. Here is where partnership between public and private and philanthropic sectors is today of the essence. The real challenge for Government especially following the financial crisis of the past 3 or 4 years is to change itself. Government has to become more strategic, more about empowering than controlling. In this endeavour, creative partnership with those in the business or philanthropic sector can be a huge part of that reform. This can happen within countries; but also globally for example through the World Bank or UN. The ability to leverage Government or IFI power through working with the philanthropic sector is enormous and only just being fully comprehended.

Philanthropic foundations could also do more to work with each other – one reason why this Forum is so important. There are synergies, shared experiences, and contributions that can happen if we talk to each other as friends not rivals. One small example: in Sierra Leone, AGI and TBFF now co-operate in delivering the Government’s anti-malaria programme through using the unparalleled reach of the faith infrastructure – churches and mosques – to disseminate important public health messages about malaria prevention.

My conclusion is about the new social contract itself. There is a political debate about globalisation – good or bad? In my view, this is an entirely pointless discussion. Globalisation is a fact and it is propelled forward by people through technology and travel. The real debate is therefore how do we make globalisation work and for the many not the few? The answer lies, in part, in understanding that the key dividing line in politics today is less traditional ideas of left vs right, than the struggle between the open-minded and the closed, between those who see in globalisation an opportunity to open up the world so that it is not riven with conflicts of race, nation and faith; and those who find such an open world too frightening and close down in the face of it. Central to this goal is the fight against poverty and injustice, whether social, economic, or political. The open-mind seeks to imbue globalisation with common bonds and a shared sense of justice. The closed-mind seeks to retreat behind the walls of identity of race, nation and faith.

At the core of this new social contract is the open-mind: optimistic, not cynical; celebrating difference not scared of it; and believing that to be committed to the service of others, is a life purpose worth striving for. It is what you represent here: and I am honoured to be part of it, a refugee from conventional politics, who has found a new lease of life in philanthropy!

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In case you are of the opinion that Tony Blair’s speech on philanthropy was timed by design to chime into the current debate in Britain on charity taxing,  it wasn’t.

Davos, 2009 on – guess what – philanthropy.

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Crazy Constellations! TB? It’s written in the stars. I’m NOT making this up!

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17th January 2012

I told my fellow tweeps earlier that there was a constellation that looked like a “T” – Great Dog (in green, at bottom of chart.)

Bottom of chart - Great Dog Constellation - in shape of a "T"

To be honest (and aren’t I always?) I was only messing around. I had no idea.

It just seemed appropriate with all the goings-on today over Luke Bozier a strong Blairite defecting from Labour to the Conservatives; the Blair-less Labour party doing nasty things to the popular Glasgow MP Tom Harris (also a Blairite) over a spoof Hitler/Alex Salmond video he’d  uploaded to YouTube thus getting booted out of his job – see ‘Tom Harris Downfall’; and Unite’s Len McCluskey up to some old Union divide-and-rule tricks. In Mr McCluskey’s case it seemed Ed Miliband was embracing “discredited Blairism” (yes, yes, I know!) so McCluskey said they had to sort him out.  Else, he would be really sorted out by the er… Blairites (the “discredited” losers y’know) who would then claim the party for their evil little selves.

I’m still trying to get my head around all of this.

So in this stargazing week it seemed just the time to say something about TB and the stars.

I told fellow tweeps that I thought I’d go and take a look for a constellation in the shape of a “B”.  As if – thought I! Great constellations! I didn’t even know the “T” existed then, if truth be told!

Lo and behold, miracle of miracles, there it was. To the upper right of the “T”, just as I had hoped for.

After “Great Dog” “T” there was “B” -“Hunter” constellation.

Hunter constellation, to right above Great Dog("T") in shape of a "B"

The whole thing is so coincidental, so … er weird.  If I was the type, I’d be yelling – ‘there you go – it’s written in the stars.’

OK, I will anyway…..

TB = Great Dog/Hunter – it’s written in the stars!

Even the names are good. Not a Swan or an Aiden or a River or a Chained Princess – but a Great Dog/Hunter.

I’m almost speechless. Wonder what Brian Cox makes of this? I have to go and lie down.

Of course there is always the chance it’s referring to Tony Benn – as this tweep suggested to me. Or to Tony Booth, Cherie Blair’s father or …

But I think I’ll stay with my interpretation.

Go here to download the AstroViewer.

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Comment samples follow from the Ban Blair-Baiting petition

1. I completely agree with everything that has been said on this website. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair worked tirelessly and selflessly in the interests of the people, and continues to do so today. He is primarily a humanitarian, and doesn’t deserve any of the vitriol that has been levelled at him. He was a great Prime Minister, is a thoroughly decent man; and should in my opinion, be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his outstanding work. – David Miliband (New Labour’s heir) for the next PM!

2. Best politician in Britain by a long way.

3. Fully support the petition. The criticism of Mr Blair has gone way beyond anything acceptable and seems to be carried out mainly by those who are looking to wash their hands of any involvement in supporting the Iraq war at the time. It is very easy to be ‘wise after the event’ and to make assumptions about how much Mr Blair knew or did not know before the war. In these people’s eyes, the former PM is guilty whatever the evidence.

4. An excellent petition this for a very undervalued PM. A PM who is not only the best in my lifetime but my parents lifetime too!

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For Julie

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10th December 2011

Julie is now to be found here on Twitter – MsIntervention  and, I think, still at her old Twitter account – Julie’s ThinkTank.  And still, at her now Blairless blog with “That’s it. The End”

Tony Blair is to be found here – Faith Shorts Event Tuesday 6th December. Oh, and here – Office of the Quartet Representative.  As well as here – AGI, Africa Governance Initiative, and quite a few other places.  All operating out of here.

Last but not least, for MsIntervention followers, Mr Blair is to be found here – 1999 Doctrine of the International Community

WHO SAID I PRATTLE ON TOO MUCH IN MY BLOG POSTS?

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Comment samples follow from the Ban Blair-Baiting petition

1. I completely agree with everything that has been said on this website. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair worked tirelessly and selflessly in the interests of the people, and continues to do so today. He is primarily a humanitarian, and doesn’t deserve any of the vitriol that has been levelled at him. He was a great Prime Minister, is a thoroughly decent man; and should in my opinion, be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his outstanding work. – David Miliband (New Labour’s heir) for the next PM!

2. Best politician in Britain by a long way.

3. Fully support the petition. The criticism of Mr Blair has gone way beyond anything acceptable and seems to be carried out mainly by those who are looking to wash their hands of any involvement in supporting the Iraq war at the time. It is very easy to be ‘wise after the event’ and to make assumptions about how much Mr Blair knew or did not know before the war. In these people’s eyes, the former PM is guilty whatever the evidence.

4. An excellent petition this for a very undervalued PM. A PM who is not only the best in my lifetime but my parents lifetime too!

See full signature list