‘Blair & Miliband Conspiracy’ in Church

Comment at end

UPDATE: 27th September, 2008

The Mail says today that there was A.N. Other in the church at Murdoch’s family party.

An update on our disclosure last week regarding David Miliband’s secret parley with his mentor Tony Blair in Burford Priory chapel, Oxfordshire. Dog’s man at the altar reveals a ‘Third Man’ was present, arch anti-Gordon Brown plotter Peter Mandelson. A sinister New Labour trinity if ever there was one.”

Wonder why his presence wasn’t pointed out before? Was he on his knees? Praying, perhaps, for the survival of New Labour? This – ‘Ed Balls to replace Brown’s Darling’ – would even force Miliband onto his bendeds.

22nd September, 2008


I have to hand it to The Daily Mail – well now and again I feel generous. They certainly know how to keep the conspiratorial flame alive.

The Mail tells us that far from praying, (or being saved or converted, in Mr Miliband’s case), Tony Blair & David Miliband were seen talking in “hushed, conspiratorial tones” in a private church at the recent party thrown for Rupert Murdoch’s daughter. Well, they could hardly be expected to shout it from the rooftops!

And where else in this heathen land of ours could they expect comparative privacy than inside a church?  (Although Thomas a Beckett could not escape the sword even while conducting a service.)


It’s delicious, really.  A lot of interesting goings-on have occurred within the hallowed confines of the House of God over the centuries, so theirs is not an untrodden path. I can imagine Miliband’s reaction when Tony said (and surely HE must have suggested it?) – “let’s pop into the church for a few minutes”!

We all know what’s going on, but no-one can say it too loudly. The Labour Left are revelling in false dawn expectations of going forward to yesterday, while the only leader who has ever won them three consecutive general elections is relegated to the loneliness of the front pews. He knows that whatever he thinks of the present condition  of his party, there in church, of all places, it is between him, real friends and God.

As he said once upon an innocent pre-converted time, when a leading roman catholic bishop said he should not attend catholic services – “I wonder what Jesus would have thought of it?”

I imagine Jesus would have been on the side of the angels.

Wasn’t there a song by Tony’s friend Cliff Richard that said something about “God is watching us …”?

But then again, if it’s all in the cause of saving the Labour party, God might look the other way.

The Mail’s coverage follows:

Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary David Miliband were caught plotting against Gordon Brown in the chapel of a Benedictine monastery, it was revealed last night.

The extraordinary rendezvous took place at Burford Priory in Oxfordshire at a birthday party for media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth.

While other guests drank champagne in the palatial Jacobean-style mansion until the early hours of the morning, Mr Blair and Mr Miliband slipped away quietly for a private conversation in a candlelit chapel which adjoins the priory.

As they sat on the pews whispering conspiratorially, two fellow guests, who were exploring the house, stumbled across them by chance.

An embarrassed Mr Blair and Mr Miliband immediately pulled back from each other, as though they had been caught out.

It is an open secret among senior Labour figures that Mr Blair supports Mr Miliband’s ambition to succeed Mr Brown as Prime Minister.

Until now, Mr Blair has gone to great lengths to avoid being accused of helping Mr Miliband. Their furtive get-together two weeks ago would appear to end that.

And Mr Miliband had more than one reason to be uncomfortable.

While Mr Blair is a committed Christian, Mr Miliband is an atheist.

Burford Priory

Sharing a pew: Tony Blair and David Miliband met up at Burford Priory

Matthew Freud, the public relations guru who is married to Elisabeth Murdoch, hosted the party, which was attended by David Cameron, David Blunkett and media celebrities including several Fleet Street editors.

The couple recently bought Burford Priory.

Significantly, Gordon Brown had turned down an invitation. He and his wife Sarah spent the weekend with the Queen at Balmoral.

Burford Priory, set in 15 acres, was home to an Anglican Benedictine community of monks and nuns.

The owners decided to sell up after the number of monks fell to just seven.

They occupied their days with prayer and manual work, guided by the words of St Benedict: ‘Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.’

The house has 22 bedrooms and features a central porch with a heraldic shield and carved figures above, ornate stone cornices and parapet walls.

The ground floor alone has seven reception rooms. Joined to the priory on the first floor is the 17th Century Gothic-style Chapel of St John.

The priory and chapel were put up for sale earlier this year for £4.5million.

The six-bedroom Old Rectory and three-bedroom Old Rectory Cottage, in the grounds, were also on sale for £2million.

At its heart lies a personal dispute between Henry II, who felt betrayed by his friend, and Becket, who mistrusted the motives of the king. This bad blood between friends is what made the dispute so bitter.

Beckett’s murder in the chapel made him a martyr, brought blame upon the king, and highlighted issues between the monarch and religion. At least today, thus far, it is only a transient government which has fear of a man of God.

Richard Hopwood, Yorkshire Post, puts it well. Somehow I feel this truth may fall on many cloth ears: “Tony Blair & the Labour Love that dare not speak its name”

‘HIS name is no more likely to be invoked from the stage of Labour’s conference hall this year than it was in 2007. For his remaining supporters in the party, Tony Blair is still the love that dare not speak its name.

But with opinion polls suggesting Blair is the only leader who can save Labour from electoral disaster, the former Prime Minister’s shadow is hanging heavily over Manchester.

In contrast to this apparent public nostalgia for Blair, however, it is a hardening orthodoxy within much of the Labour movement that the party’s most successful leader is a figure worthy only of hatred and contempt. Seen by many as the cause of all its
present problems, his name has become a term of insult for anyone daring to step out of line and suggest that, under Gordon Brown, Labour is heading for catastrophe at the polls.

While such an intimation may seem little more than a statement of the obvious, to the praetorian guard surrounding Brown, it is merely a manifestation of “Blairite” plotting, designed to wreak revenge on the man who rid Number 10 of its previous resident.

As Charles Clarke noted earlier this month, the term “Blairite” has become “a lazy and ignorant shorthand. It is intended not to illuminate, but to diminish, marginalise and insult”.

The rebel MPs trying to unseat Brown by provoking a palace revolution inside the Cabinet, for example, are dismissed as “the same old Blairite names” by a Brown ally (who incidentally chose to keep his or her own name secret) – as if this adjective is all that is needed to show up the claims of any critic as self-evidently preposterous.

When David Miliband attempted to advance his own leadership ambitions in July, by warning that “the times demand a radical new phase”, he was immediately portrayed as a Blairite puppet and, even worse, as a disciple of the Great Satan, Tony himself (although it is clear from any examination of Miliband’s political philosophy that this is anything but the case).

And in the furore over Brown’s reluctance to tax energy companies’ profits, the air was thick with backbench Labour MPs and trade unionists bandying “Blairite” around as if it were the most damning term imaginable.

Unable to contain his wrath at the Government’s refusal to impose a windfall tax – in spite of the fact that the country is in desperate need of investment from these firms to keep its lights switched on and the clear likelihood of any tax being simply passed on to hapless consumers – Tony Woodley, leader of Britain’s largest union, Unite, hit out at “Blairites who think that we should continue unfairly to support big business making their profits while the rest of us struggle”.

Such logic shows not only a complete misunderstanding of political and economic reality, but is also the clearest indication yet of the depth of Labour’s problems.

For, when a party views the most successful and triumphant period of its history as the basis for an insult to be hurled around during its descent into civil war, it is surely finished.

I carry no candle for Blairism as it manifested itself during Blair’s 10 years in office. The promise of much-needed radical reform of welfare and the public services faded, partly through a failure of political courage on the part of Blair himself, partly through the sheer obstreperousness of the scheming Brown.

By the time Blair realised that his time was running out with few ambitions realised, his Chancellor had spent all the money. Had he been brave enough to sack Brown in 1998, when the scale of Blair’s public popularity would have allowed him to get away with it, the story would have had a different ending.

In this respect, then, New Labour has been a failure. But where it was decidedly a success was in putting into practice the belief that, if the party was ever to gain power again after its 18 years in the wilderness, it had to embrace the ambitions of middle Britain, be a friend to business and jettison forever the notion of tribal socialist politics that had kept it in electoral oblivion.

The success of this strategy now provokes the familiar complaint among Labour backbenchers that Blair had no particular talent beyond winning elections. Well, what would Gordon Brown give for some of that talent now?

Alone among politicians of his generation, Blair had the ability to articulate the hopes and aspirations of a vast cross-section of the British public and to sweep them all into his famed big tent, allied with a fierce determination to gain, and to retain, power.

It was this zest for government, and the knowledge of how to achieve it, that carried Blairite Labour to three successive election victories. And it is the absence of any such zest that is most starkly highlighted by the present willingness of so many in the party to disavow those years of success.

It also highlights how Blair was the exception to the Labour rule, the man who believed that a party that did not want government was pointless, while so much of the rest of the Labour movement is palpably uncomfortable with the notion of power, preferring the easy freedoms of opposition to the discipline and determination needed to win office.

Given the first really unfavourable conditions it has faced – a leader who does not easily engage with the public and a turbulent economic storm – Labour is reverting to type, retreating into its ideological comfort zone of class envy and high taxation and rejecting Blairism as a poison which was briefly allowed to pollute the purity of its cherished socialist philosophy.

Those Labour MPs who say that what the party most needs is a fierce debate about direction and policy are correct. However, it is increasingly clear that this debate will only occur during a long period of opposition – and that too many party members, happier in fighting each other rather than the Tories, would actually prefer it that way.

Richard Hopwood is a former chief leader writer of the Yorkshire Post.

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