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T_i_B

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It's time to demolish the myth about Tony Blair

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/owen-jones-its-time-to-demolish-the-myth-about-tony-blair-7808282.html

You will struggle to find more devout supporters of Tony Blair than those at the top of the Conservative leadership. "I can't hold it back any more; I love Tony!" Michael Gove once exclaimed. David Cameron famously described himself as "the heir to Blair", and senior Tories refer to him as "The Master". "His influence is very firmly felt," a senior Tory told The Times. "He's like the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo – gone but still greatly admired." Screaming teenagers at Take That concerts in the mid-1990s come to mind. Tories really love Blair not because of his undoubted political skills, but because they think he was "one of us", albeit trapped by the Labour Party. In his first joust with Blair after taking over as Conservative leader, Cameron offered to support him against his own party over his policy of marketising comprehensive education. "With our support, the Prime Minister knows there is no danger of losing these education reforms in a Parliamentary vote," Cameron crooned, mocking Labour backbenchers. "So he can afford to be as bold as he wants to be." And, in reality, Labour's current opposition to what the Coalition is doing is hobbled by the fact that Blair laid the foundation for so much of it.

Take the privatisation of the NHS. Under Blair, private sector involvement began to flourish and a commercial directorate was set up in the Department of Health. Gove is now expanding Blair's Academy schools programme, and free schools are a logical extension of them. The Coalition trebled the tuition fees that Blair introduced. Across public services, Blair expanded the role of the private sector – though not as fast as he would have liked, thanks to internal party opposition. But Cameron is taking this "reform" (the Blairite and Tory code word for "privatisation" ever further. "Public sector reform" has come up in the many conversations Blair has apparently had with Cameron, and I'm sure the ex-PM has had much advice to offer.

It was the murderous invasion of Iraq – described by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as "illegal" – that, for many, makes Blair unforgivable rather than a mere disappointment. It competes with the expenses scandal for the damage it did to faith in politicians. While in power, he courted despots like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, whom he described as "immensely courageous and a force for good" when the Egyptian people rose against him. Today, the man who partly justified the invasion of Iraq with Saddam's sickening human rights record is being paid $13 million to advise the brutal dictator of Kazakhstan.

His defenders argue that Labour could not have won without him. It is a myth. Black Wednesday in 1992 finished off the Tories, and Labour enjoyed subsequent massive poll leads under John Smith. Of the five million votes that Labour lost in its 13 years in power, four million went awol under Blair's leadership. It wasn't so-called "Middle England" that deserted the party. According to Ipsos MORI, while middle-class professional support for Labour declined by five percentage points between 1997 and 2010, support among skilled workers plummeted by 21 per cent.

Hatred of those on benefits is dangerously out of control

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/owen-jones-hatred-of-those-on-benefits-is-dangerously-out-of-control-7763793.html

Hatred against those receiving benefits is out of control in Cameron's Britain. The Tories transformed a crisis of capitalism into a crisis of public spending, and determined that the most vulnerable would make the biggest sacrifices. But taking away support from the disabled, the unemployed and the working poor is not straightforward. It can only be achieved by a campaign of demonisation – to crush any potential sympathy. Benefit recipients must only appear as feckless, workshy scroungers, living in opulent quasi-mansions with wall-to-wall widescreen TVs, rampaging around the Canary Islands courtesy of handouts from the squeezed taxpayer. Benefit fraud does exist – according to Government estimates, it is worth less than 1 per cent of welfare spending – but the most extreme examples are passed off as representative, or as the "tip of the iceberg". The reality is all but airbrushed out of existence.

Six of the biggest disability charities have warned that the campaign of demonisation – by both journalists and politicians – has led to a surge in abuse towards people with disabilities. According to Scope, two-thirds reported abuse in September last year, up from 41 per cent just four months earlier.

But this campaign helps sustain public acquiescence in a massacre of the welfare state. George Osborne plans £10bn of further benefit cuts; Cameron's parting spinmeister Steve Hilton has proposed £25bn. Half a million people are to have their disability living allowance taken away, even though the estimated fraud rate is just 0.5 per cent. People with serious illnesses are being stripped of their employment and support allowance, after undergoing the horrendous (and often humiliating) ordeal of a points-based assessment by French corporation Atos. One man with a degenerative lung disease, Larry Newman, was awarded no points – just a few weeks before he died of his illness. Under New Labour (let's not forget who started this), one woman had her benefits cut after missing an assessment appointment – because she was in hospital having chemotherapy for stomach cancer.

But we rarely see this reality: it is intentionally hidden from us. The Government and much of the media divert anger from those who caused the crisis, to your "scrounging" neighbour down the street. And so we end with Carole Malone arguing that a family whose children died in a fire brought it on themselves. It is beyond shameful. And it must be challenged.

From the Telegraph article.....

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/phone-hacking/9238358/MPs-phone-hacking-report-Rupert-Murdoch-not-fit-person-to-run-News-Corp.html

The report says: “On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.

“This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International.

“We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

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