Mr Tony Blair is having another fabulous Gap year

Presumably the former PM is content with Vietnam's human rights record

Matthew Norman
Thursday 12 September 2013 18:28 BST
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair pauses as he speaks during the Khosla Ventures Cleantech Discussion May 24, 2010 in Sausalito, California.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair pauses as he speaks during the Khosla Ventures Cleantech Discussion May 24, 2010 in Sausalito, California.

Hurrah, hurrah, the ultimate triumph of Mr Tony Blair’s work as Middle East peace envoy will allow him to pursue his commercial interests. Previously, while the region was in turmoil, Mr Tony famously eschewed any money-making opportunities, but the outbreak of peace liberates him to expand his Government Advisory Panel. And what a Gap year it’s proving as he follows the familiar student paths to South-east Asia and Latin America. Along with Peru and Thailand, reports The Sunday Telegraph, Vietnam is the latest country to hire his contact book – though, as with previous clients such as Kazakhstan and Kuwait, not until he had contented himself about its exemplary human rights record. No one committed to spreading freedom and democracy would do less.

According to the watchdog Reporters Without Borders, Vietnam’s one-party communist state currently incarcerates only 160 political prisoners, with 35 bloggers in the jug (some for 13 years) for expressing views not to its liking. On 1 September, meanwhile, it introduced “Decree 72”, outlawing the sharing of news reports on the internet. While the US Embassy in Hanoi called on it “to respect the right to free expression”, Mr T has failed to comment. But then (see Louise Mensch, below) he never was much of a boy for blindly following an American lead.

A grasp of history must be in his DNA

Other vultures from Labour’s past continue to encircle Ed Miliband with ghoulish delight. In what The Mail on Sunday comically undersells as a “hugely significant intervention”, David Blunkett pre-empts Ed’s trip to the TUC with a history lesson. “The party needs to promise to reduce the influence of the state over individuals,” he writes, “which, after all, is exactly what it was created to achieve ...” How exceedingly true. The gigantic welfare state was a hideous problem in the late 19th century, and the Attlee government later set about shrinking the state by creating the NHS and implementing the Beveridge report. You may recall that Blunkers was resigned from Cabinet, for a second time, in 2005 over his shareholding in a firm bidding for government contracts to provide mandatory DNA testing, even though he was later cleared of breaching the Ministerial Code. Reducing the state’s influence over individuals was always a passion with him.

Bears in the woods; bookies giving odds

Not sated by that, The Mail on Sunday devoted another two pages to Ed’s travails with the unions. So bleak is his situation, shrieked a subhead, that “now even bookies are giving odds on next leader”. It’s that “even” I adore. Were it the Dalai Lama or the Dagenham Girl Pipers, you wouldn’t be concerned. But when bookmakers start quoting odds … well, it must be a very grave crisis. Even bookies, incidentally, quote odds on the next PM, and a certain Ed Miliband is even money favourite.

Cynical self-interest won’t fool Alastair

Sarah Teather’s decision to quit as a Lib Dem MP in 2015 offers Alastair Campbell the chance to further his crusade against corrosive cynicism in political commentary. Ms Teather spoke tearfully about feeling “catastrophically depressed” by Nick Clegg’s hard line on immigrants. Since the understanding of depression is one of Alastair’s special interests, his sympathy is no more surprising than his lack of cynicism. “Sarah Teather,” runs Ali’s tweet, “a looming lost seat dressed up as look-at-me ‘principles’.” Enchanting, as always.

Impeccable logic leads to … Obama

No one doubts the purity of Louise Mensch’s motives in quitting parliament, and from her lucrative Murdochian berth as a Sun on Sunday columnist she remains a stout supporter of her old boss. Unlike Mr Blair, writes Louise of the Syrian vote disaster, “David Cameron didn’t just ask ‘how high?’ when Barack said jump – he put it to Parliament.” She wastes no time in ramming home this celebration of a fiercely independent British PM. “The fact is, it’s Obama’s mess,” she observes three paragraphs later. “He’s the one who pushed for an early vote in the UK.” Genius.

Seeing clearly the Bacon way

Also on top form in the SoS is guest columnist Richard Bacon. Among the “GENUINE facts” Richard learned about Mr Assad only last week is that “Bashar trained to be an optician in London. If things had worked out differently, he might now be running a branch of Specsavers…” Out of respect for the Wildean wit, we will not muse on how the presenter of Radio 5 Live’s daily current affairs show could have been ignorant about a GENUINE fact included in every Assad profile for years. But for the record, he was a postgraduate ophthalmology student, and a touch overqualified to oversee the Specsavers reading chart.

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