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Andy McSmith's Diary: Tony Blair talks of courageously standing up to the party. Get that, Ed?


Tony Blair’s gentle rebuke to Ed Miliband in the centenary edition of the New Statesman magazine has landed him with the problem that anything he says on any subject will be scrutinised to see if it contains another dig at the Labour leader. Over the weekend, he spoke at Judson University, near Chicago, where he was asked how he had managed to get along with President George W Bush, despite their ideological differences.

He replied: “The paradox in politics – and this is not just limited to the United States – is that the public wants more peace, but the political parties want more partisanship. When your party becomes more partisan, you are faced with hard choices. You could choose to say one thing to your party base and another to the public, which is a bad idea, or you can be prepared to toe the party line. But do you have courage to stand up to your party base? At several points in my leadership, I had to stand up to my own party and say, ‘Now that I’m Prime Minister, I am here to represent all the country, not just my party’.”

It is of course possible to extract the words “do you have the courage to stand up to your party base” and suggest that they are a shaft aimed at Ed Miliband, but it is obvious from the report on the university’s website that Blair was not talking about domestic politics, which would hardly interest an audience in Illinois.

His spokesman said: “Mr Blair was responding to a question about US politics and made a general point about leadership. He certainly wasn’t referring to Ed Miliband or the Labour Party.”

Viewer sees red over a lack of yellow

Pat Ellison-Reed, from Glossop, in Derbyshire, who is a great fan of the BBC drama series Foyle’s War starring Honeysuckle Weeks as Samantha Stewart, has nonetheless protested to the Radio Times after seeing a Labour candidate with a red rosette. “During this period, Labour rosettes were yellow – or, if you wanted to show you were a bit left-wing, had a tiny bit of red in the middle,” he said. “I should know, I made lots of them for my Labour candidate father and the family.”

The producer, Jeremy Gwilt, justifies the inaccuracy on the grounds that if they had shown a candidate wearing a yellow rosette it would have confused almost everyone watching, because we associate yellow with the Liberal Democrats.

A costly train  of events

A footnote to the story of the dispute over Labour MP Jim McGovern’s £24 train fare, which cost the taxpayer £27,000 in legal fees when it went to a tribunal. Mr McGovern was represented by his union, the GMB, who say that its legal bill came to a modest £740. It has accused Parliament’s expenses watchdog Ipsa of wasting public money by hiring an unnecessarily large legal team. Ipsa denies it, and points out that it never wanted the case to go to a tribunal in the first place.

Cameron dodges the questions

It is hard not to conclude that David Cameron does not like having to face Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. He avoided it on Wednesday 27 March, when the Government decided that Parliament should wind up on the Tuesday of that week. The first two Wednesdays of April were the Easter holidays, and today, they have been knocked off the agenda by the funeral, which some MPs suspect that Mr Cameron deliberately timed to get out of facing the Commons. Assuming nothing unusual happens, he will be at the despatch box on Wednesday of next week, five weeks since his previous appearance.