Blair’s Labour Warning

By Rowan Williams
  • – Former PM warns Labour against shift leftwards
  • – Greek PM Tsipras faces critics as vote looms
  • – China hits back at Japanese criticism


Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned the Labour Party against shifting politically left, as an early poll shows left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn pulling ahead in the party’s leadership race. The first poll on the Labour leadership race, carried out between Friday and Tuesday, predicts a six percent majority for Corbyn. Candidate Andy Burnham, the original favourite for party leader, is predicted to come second in the voting, with candidates Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall in third and fourth place respectively. Speaking on Wednesday, Tony Blair said that Labour had “rediscovered losing” elections, and warned that electing Corbyn as party leader and shifting leftwards would mean a repeat of when Labour lost four successive elections. Blair also appealed for Labour to occupy the centre ground in politics. Labour will announce its new leader on 12 September.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has taken on rebel MPs within his Syriza party in parliament, ahead of a crucial vote on the country’s bailout deal. Speaking on Tuesday night, Tsipras reportedly criticised rebellious Syriza MPs for opposing government plans without presenting any alternative. Earlier in July, Greece agreed with international creditors that it would implement austerity measures and economic reforms in exchange for further bailout funding. Greek MPs need to back the proposed reforms before talks can begin on a new €86 billion bailout. 32 of Syriza’s 149 MPs voted against bailout measures last week, while six abstained. The vote is expected to pass this week with support from opposition parties. The next round of bailout talks is expected to begin on Friday should the economic reforms be passed.

China has hit back at Japanese criticism of its actions in the East China Sea. China’s Foreign Ministry told Japan that its annual military review had hyped up the “China threat”, and that China reserved the right to take “necessary reaction” in the region. Japan’s military paper, issued on Tuesday, called on China to stop building oil and gas platforms around disputed territories in the East China Sea, expressing concerns that platforms could tap into resources in Japanese territory. China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday also restated its claim to the disputed Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyu islands in Chinese. China has continued to seek resolutions to its territorial disputes, calling on the Philippines on Wednesday to return to bilateral negotiations with China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and withdraw its request for a United Nations arbitration tribunal on the issue.

The Papers

A broad mix of stories makes the headlines today. The Financial Times leads with news of “fresh 40% budget cuts in Whitehall”, as Chancellor George Osborne sets out heavy austerity measures for government departments. £20 billion of savings are to be made by 2020, the paper reports, though the “NHS, defence and foreign aid” have been “spared” from cuts. The Times leads with news of a “Labour war” as party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn “closes in on leadership”. Corbyn is 17 points ahead in the first public poll taken, the paper writes. The Guardian leads with a report into “Generation rent”, writing that the housing ladder is starting to “collapse for the under 40s”. By 2025, more than half of Britain’s under-40s will live in homes owned by private landlords, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of a “Bionic eye” that is able to “cure blindness in old age”. The successful surgical implantation of a ‘bionic eye’ for an elderly British man has given “hope to 500,000 with Age Related Macular Degeneration”. The Independent leads with news of “A green light to grow cannabis at home”. According to the paper, Durham Constabulary “is already turning a blind eye to domestic cultivation” of cannabis, seeing prosecution as a “waste of time”.

British Media on China

On Ai Weiwei: controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has had his passport returned to him after four years, receiving some coverage from the UK media. The BBC reports that Ai’s passport “was taken away “in 2011 when he was detained for 81 days without charge”. Ai’s first trip abroad “would be to Germany, where his son has been living”, the BBC writes. The Guardian reports that Ai “seemed to step back from his political activism” following his detention and release in 2011. Ai “was allowed to open his first solo exhibition on Chinese soil” in June, the paper adds.

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