Tony Blair may be an admirer of Ukrainian mills, but not on the basis of British ones he's visited

Strange, isn't it, how our former Prime Minister seems so loved everywhere he goes - but not in the country where he won three successive elections
  • @andymcsmith

Tony Blair seems to be better loved almost anywhere in the world than he is in the UK. This month, he has been mobbed by an adoring crowd in Vietnam, and given the VIP treatment in Laos, Singapore and the Ukraine, while at home another name has been added to the long list of his detractors.

Tanya de Grunwald runs a website called Graduate Fog, which campaigns against unpaid internships. She has been contacted by an unnamed graduate who was offered a three month unpaid internship in Tony Blair’s office, only to be rejected because he/she could not afford to give up a part time job, whereas another candidate, presumably with very supportive parents, could do five days a week.

In Ukraine, Tony Blair visited a steel works in Dnipropetrovsk – which, as any Kremlinologist knows, was once the main power base of the communist supremo Leonid Brezhnev. A report put out by the Dnipropetrovsk conglomerate Interpipe quotes Blair saying that the Interpipe steel works is one of the most impressive he has ever seen, and “I have visited a huge number of Great Britain mills,” Really? When? There haven’t been “a great many GB mills” since Margaret Thatcher ravaged the steel industry, 30 years ago.

More hurly-Burley

The Tory MP Aidan Burley killed whatever chance he had of achieving ministerial office by being photographed at a Nazi-themed stag party in France, and then by tweeting a comment that trashed the opening ceremony of the Olympics. He has tried to redeem himself, however, by running a campaign to reform trade unions, and now he has won a position on the Works and Pensions Select Committee. The reaction from the PCS, the trade union representing staff in that government department, was less than fulsome. “The fact that this odious little man is still even in Parliament is bad enough, but he is quite obviously not fit to scrutinise the government’s brutal plans for our welfare state,” said a spokesman.

Go easy on Kawczynski...

These days, if an MP so much as breathes, someone is outraged. Far be it from me to defend the Tory, Daniel Kawczynski, who has some strange ideas about Middle East politics, but he is being castigated online because on all 72 train journeys he took between London and his Shrewsbury constituency in the year to April 2012, at taxpayers’ expense, he travelled first class, at an aggregate cost of £3,890. The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, whose North Shropshire constituency is nearby, claimed for 16 journeys, all second class. They cost of £1,384. Mr Kawczynski’s defence is that by booking early he gets a cheaper price. Do the maths and you find that his first class journeys cost £54 each, while Mr Paterson’s second class travel costs £86.50 a time. Mr Kawczynski is not answerable for the vagaries in the cost of rail travel.

... but maybe not on Gove

If anyone wants to get angry about an MP spending taxpayer’s money, a better target might be the £12,540 that, we learnt yesterday, the Education Secretary Michael Gove spent on legal fees in a failed attempt to overturn a decision by the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, who ruled that using private email accounts to discuss departmental business is not a valid way to get around the Freedom of Information Act.