Blair in clash over abortion

Click to follow
The Independent Online
A row over abortion, which threatens to derail Tony Blair's bid for the moral high ground of politics, intensified yesterday.

The Labour leader made known his "sincere and profound disagreement" with Cardinal Thomas Winning of Glasgow, spiritual leader of 750,000 Scottish Catholics, who tonight accuses him of having no policy on the issue.

"Mr Blair does not think that women should be criminalised, or that the criminal law should be used as a blanket barrier in what are profoundly difficult and agonising decisions for many women," said a senior aide. "He will stick to that view."

In an interview on BBC-TV's Everyman programme, Cardinal Winning claims that the Labour leader "says he doesn't agree with abortion, but he doesn't condemn it". He also implies that Mr Blair's Christianity is "a sham". The comments, published in advance of screening, triggered a furious reaction from senior Catholic MPs in Scotland.

Tom Clarke, a member of the Shadow Cabinet, said: "I think the cardinal has gone completely over the top here. Everything that Tony Blair has said or done is totally compatible with his Christian feelings."

Scottish Affairs spokesman John McFall demanded that Cardinal Winning apologise for his "astonishing and offensive" comments. In the interview, the cardinal criticises Labour's stand on abortion, saying: "New Labour does have a number of Christian politicians and yet it has consistently avoided condemning abortion."

n Labour is to step up its efforts to outlaw "combat knives". Jack Straw, the shadow Home Secretary, is enlisting expert help to draw up a workable definition of the knives. Labour will then seek either to insert a new clause in Michael Howard's Crime Bill, or extend the existing schedule of unlawful blades.