Saturday, September 02, 2006


Could Sir David's letter lever Blair away from Bush?

Sir David Manning was educated at Oxford, John Hopkins and Bologna and has served in Israel, India and Moscow. So he had been around a bit even before rising to become Blair's highest level foreign policy adviser after the 9-11 attacks. So it was interesting to read that such a trusted aide, saturated in the Whitehall traditions of discretion and understatement, should have sent a 'devastating' letter to his prime minister from his new perch as ambassador in Washington- Foreign Ofice threats to seek an injunction against publication suggest the letter is genuine. In it, we are told, Sir David 'passionately' attacked Blair's foreign policy stance over the Lebanon War.

'It had a huge impact in Downing St' according to a source quoted by The Times, and in response the PM 'shifted quickly fom solid support of President calling for an urgent ceasefire.' We learn Blair now plans a peace mission to the Middle East in an effort to rehabilitate his image one of the world's premier peace negotiaters. It's worth recalling that Tony offered such a mission to Bush in that infamous 'Yo Blair' episode but was abruptly rebuffed.

This is more bad news to load on to the problems he will face at Manchester in a fortnight's time but it offers two hopeful signs to those who have become so exasperated with the man. Firstly, it shows he can and does listen to criticism and adjust policy accordingly. And secondly this might be the first,long awaited sign that Blair is no longer in thrall to the man in the White House who has cast such a malign shadow over his recent career. Now that really would help him at Manchester. But, given the alleged fate of Jack Straw when he began to distance himself from US foreign policy, Sir David might just find his boss coming under pressure from Washington to find another billet for an adviser who is just that little too outspoken.

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