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Insights from the UK and beyond

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Fighting for the future of conservativism

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers a speech to placard waving Conservatives during an European election campaign rally at a science park in Bristol

Establishment Republicans have been delighted by the victory of Thom Tillis, their favored candidate in last week’s North Carolina primary. After expensive advertising campaigns by establishment bagmen like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, mainstream conservatives believe they have a candidate who can beat Democrat Kay Hagan to win a valuable Senate seat in November.

Some commentators see Tillis’s triumph as a sign that other impending GOP primary races will also deliver electable candidates. Having watched the Senate slip from Republican grasp in 2012, as Tea Party candidates such as Todd Akin in Missouri, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Richard Mourdock in Indiana depicted the party as too extreme, they say the Tea Party is in retreat.

Not so fast. The experience of conservative parties elsewhere suggests that when pragmatists triumph over dogmatists, the dogmatists either regroup and go on to overwhelm the moderates, eventually making the party their own. Or they set up their own party -- and trounce the moderates at the ballot box.

ThatcherThat is happening in Britain. The Conservatives, once Britain’s natural governing party, find themselves about to be pressed into third place in the European Parliament elections. They will be runners-up not only to the Labor Party but also to the populist United Kingdom Independence Party, their ideological nemesis. Like the Tea Party, the Independence Party has set itself up as the true conscience of conservatism.

“Heir to Blair” Cameron seeks progressive mantle

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RTR2CL0L_Comp[1]David Cameron caused consternation among many Conservative supporters in 2005 by claiming that he was the “heir to Blair”. He learnt his lesson and has steered clear of that comparison ever since, although as this election campaign unfolds there are signs he remains rather more “Blairite” than many in the Conservative rank and file would like.

Survey after survey of Conservative candidates for parliament show that Margaret Thatcher is their number one political hero by a long margin. But when Cameron was asked on the Today programme to name the best British prime minister of the 20th century, he didn’t hesitate for a moment before saying it was Winston Churchill. An uncontroversial choice perhaps, as millions of Britons would probably also single out the wartime leader, but there will have been loyal Conservatives out there disappointed that Cameron did not pick their heroine.

Blast from the past as Blair enters campaign

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Tony BlairTony Blair was back on the campaign trail today, doing what he does best, but whether the voters were happy to see him again is open to question.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown was hoping that Blair could still conjure up some of the old magic that helped Labour to victory in the last three elections. But it quickly became apparent that he conjured up a few demons too.

from The Great Debate UK:

Tariq Ali on how unions fare under Labour rule

Amid a stand-off between British Airways and the Unite union, the Labour Party's main financial supporter, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a planned strike by BA cabin crew workers "unjustified and deplorable" last week and said both sides should return to talks.

Rail signal workers in the RMT union are also threatening to strike, but haven't announced a date.

Brown takes a different tack on Iraq

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BrownInquiryTony Blair said he had no regrets about removing Saddam Hussein when he ended his session before the Chilcot inquiry in January. Gordon Brown, not surprisingly, took a different approach.

Perhaps mindful of the anger that Blair’s words had reignited, Brown topped and tailed his appearance by acknowledging the  cost in human lives among British soldiers and Iraqi civilians of the conflict.

Was there a “precipitate rush to war” with Iraq?

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BRITAIN-IRAQ/Testimony by former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications director Alastair Campbell at a public inquiry over Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war shows that Blair agreed to support U.S. military action if diplomacy failed.

Campbell said that there was no “precipitate rush to war” although Blair wrote to former U.S. President George W. Bush offering support for military action if Iraq President Saddam Hussein did not agree to United Nations disarmament demands.

from Commentaries:

If not Blair, who for EU Council president?

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Within a couple of weeks, European Union leaders are going to choose the first president of the European Council now the Lisbon Treaty has finally been ratified.

It won't be Tony Blair, given the opposition of his European Socialist comrades to the former British prime minister and the hostility of several west European governments. So it's time to subject some of the other contenders to the same scrutiny that Blair has faced as the undeclared front-runner in this surreal race. Most of the 27 EU leaders appear to want a low-key, consensus-building chairman of their quarterly summit meetings rather than a high-profile globe-trotting statesman.

Is Blair the man for the EU job?

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BLAIR/Once he was regarded as an obvious front-runner for the job of EU president, then it was pointed out that it was unlikely anyone would be chosen from a country that is not in the eurozone, not in the Schengen border-free area and which has an exemption to the bloc’s charter of fundamental rights.

Ah, but if you don’t choose someone with proven political clout to fight Europe’s corner, a G2 of China and the United States will have things all their own way soon, declared Foreign Secretary David Miliband over the weekend.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Tony Blair assailed at a Palestinian mosque

tonyblairTony Blair, the Middle East envoy for the "Quartet" of powers - the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations, was assailed by a Palestinian man during a visit to a mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday.

"You are terrorism," the man shouted as guards tried to cover his mouth. "He is not welcome in the land of Palestine."

The face of Welsh politics stands down

MORGANSome of the descriptions may have been a bit off-the-wall, but Welsh political commentators were all agreed – no other local politician has challenged Rhodri Morgan for status in recent years.

His announcement that he is to stand down as First Minister at the age of 70, has led political obit writers to describe his departure as creating a great chasm in Welsh politics.

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