Blair limits foreign trips to present 'Britain first' image

Tony Blair will limit his foreign trips until after the May general election in an attempt to repair the damage to his standing caused by the Iraq war and his "shoulder-to-shoulder" support for George Bush.

The Prime Minister will try to reconnect with the public by concentrating on bread-and-butter domestic issues and pursuing a "Britain comes first" policy. Although Labour's private polling shows Iraq fading as an issue, many voters feel they have "lost" Mr Blair to foreign affairs in his second term, with some telling pollsters: "We want our Prime Minister back."

A three-hour cabinet meeting yesterday agreed that Labour's election campaign will focus on three key issues: the Government's economic record, its plans to modernise public services, and neutralising the Tory attack over crime and asylum.

Alan Milburn, Labour's election co-ordinator, said afterwards: "The public accepts the Prime Minister has a lot of foreign policy issues to deal with. Many disagreed with us on Iraq, but Tony knows the coming election is above all a fight about the future of Britain. So between now and the election the Prime Minister will be spending more time out of London than in it, but in Britain rather than overseas.

"He will continue to see the job through in Iraq, chair the G8 [group of leading industrial nations], on Africa and climate change. But Britain comes first. He will be leading the domestic debate from the front."

The Prime Minister will keep his foreign travel to a bare minimum in the next three months. Mr Milburn promised that he would "take the flak" from critics by meeting as many ordinary people as possible.

Labour's election slogan, "Britain forward not back", will be launched next weekend at Labour's spring conference, which will kick-start the party's campaign for a 5 May election.

He said people did not want a return to a "failed Tory past". He added: "People don't think we're perfect. They know we have not done everything we - or they - want us to. But they do believe we've made a lot of change and they want to see more of it. They believe the country is moving in the right direction and they don't want a reverse course."

Mr Milburn said Labour would maintain an "aggressive campaign" against Michael Howard, and refused to apologise for posters on its website which were criticised as anti-Semitic by some Jewish people.

In a national newspaper advert today, Labour will give its own version of Mr Howard's "I believe" personal statement, claiming that he believes in £35bn of public spending cuts, that the poll tax was fair, and in "taking Britain back not forward".

Labour will mount a counter-attack against the Tories' immigration policy this weekend, before unveiling its own "firm but fair" strategy next week. Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, this week bowed to pressure from Mr Blair to bring in a "points system" for immigrants in an attempt to reassure public fears. But it will be less rigid than the scheme that applies in Australia, which has been endorsed by the Conservative Party.

Tensions between Mr Blair and Gordon Brown resurfaced yesterday after two newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch suggested that the Chancellor might accept a move to the Foreign Office after the election. Blair and Brown allies blamed each other for the reports.

The reports followed speculation that Mr Blair will try to prise Mr Brown out of his Treasury power base, but that the Chancellor would refuse the Foreign Office, opting instead to go to the back benches.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links