Blair: the saviour of Gaza?

Is it April Fool's Day?

The headline to this piece in the Guardian made me wonder whether the date today was in fact 1 April rather than 18 February:

Tony Blair is determined to help bring peace to Gaza: Good relations with both Israelis and Palestinians make Blair a highly effective asset.

(This ludicrous piece is by one of Blair's flacks in Jerusalem, Daniel Arghiros, and is in response to the British-Israeli historian Avi Shlaim's brilliant take-down of Blair in the Guardian earlier this month. On a side note, do you know where Blair, the "peace envoy", was spotted, as Israel pounded Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009? In the region, trying to broker a ceasefire? Nope -- at a private opening of the Armani store in Knightsbridge.)

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Owen Smith apologises for pledge to "smash" Theresa May "back on her heels"

The Labour leader challenger has retracted his comments. 

Labour leader challenger Owen Smith has apologised for pledging to "smash" Theresa May "back on her heels", a day after vigorously defending his comments.

During a speech at a campaign event on Wednesday, Smith had declared of the prime minister, known for wearing kitten heels:

"I'll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When pressed about his use of language, Smith told journalists he was using "robust rhetoric" and added: "I absolutely stand by those comments."

But on Thursday, a spokesman for the campaign said Smith regretted his choice of words: "It was off script and on reflection it was an inappropriate choice of phrase and he apologises for using it."

Since the murder of the MP Jo Cox in June, there has been attempt by some in politics to tone down the use of violent metaphors and imagery. 

Others though, have stuck with it - despite Jeremy Corbyn's call for a "kinder, gentler politics" his shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, described rebel MPs as a "lynch mob without the rope"

Smith's language has come under scrutiny before. In 2010, when writing about the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition, he asked: "Surely, the Liberal will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?"

After an outcry over the domestic violence metaphor, Smith edited the piece.