We are not impressed.... by Tony Blair

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The Independent Online
John Major last Friday contrasted his own humble origins with the more privileged background enjoyed by Tony Blair - and attacked Mr Blair for his presumption in wanting to be Prime Minister. Yesterday Mr Blair hit back, speaking from Cape Town, South Africa, where he is on a four-day tour.

I was left thinking at the end of the Tory conference that if this is the best they can do after 17 years, then it merely shows how desperate they are, and how desperately we need a change of government.

Their strategy of seeking to make the election a personality clash between me and Mr Major is frankly pathetic. His entire speech was driven by his irritation that I should want his job, as if there was something unseemly about my daring to interfere with the Tories' belief in their divine right to rule.

But the election shouldn't be about whether John Major or Tony Blair gets to stay in Downing Street and have Chequers for the weekend. It is a job in the gift of the British people, and they will be making their judgement based on competing visions of the future, and competing policies to bring them about. I have never doubted his tenacity in remaining in the job. What I doubt is whether he has any idea of how he wants to use it for the benefit of the country. I don't think this chip-on-the-shoulder stuff impressed anyone.

It is clear - first the "devil eyes" nonsense, and now this - that they have decided on a totally American-style negative campaign. That is for them. I think they are wrong but that is the decision they have made. It is quite clear that they are ashamed of their record. They have nothing new to offer, so they come up with this. It all sits oddly with the Prime Minister's stated aim of a classless society. It sits oddly with his call, the day after John Smith's death, for a gentler, kinder type of politics in which the belittling of opponents had no place.

Tony Blair was talking to Colin Hughes