Michael Portillo

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Barack Obama was said to have the in-tray from hell even before the conflict between Hamas and Israel resulted in substantial loss of life in Gaza, as the Israelis took revenge on the terrorist organisation for its recent rocket attacks. If Obama harboured any idea of allowing the Arab-Israeli conflict to fall down towards the bottom of his agenda as he dealt with the economic slump or Iran or Afghanistan, he will by now have been disabused.

Able politicians do not fear inheriting what appears to be an impossibly complex agenda: they relish it. A significant moment during the US presidential campaign came when John McCain broke off electioneering to deal with the credit crunch.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week Gordon Brown announced a date for Britain’s withdrawal from Iraq. Most troops will be back in time for a spring general election. The prime minister posed with soldiers and expressed his sorrow over yet more fatal casualties in Afghanistan. He did not dwell on Britain’s humiliation in Basra, nor mention that this is the most inglorious withdrawal since Sir Anthony Eden ordered the boys back from Suez.

The fundamental cause of the British failure was political. Tony Blair wanted to join the United States in its toppling of Saddam Hussein because if Britain does not back America it is hard to know what our role in the world is: certainly not a seat at the top table.…  Seguir leyendo »

Another August, another unforeseen international crisis. Certainly Britain was caught napping. As the seriousness of Russia’s subjugation of Georgia became apparent, President Sarkozy zoomed around the capitals and brought about a ceasefire. While the United States was powerless to prevent the humiliation of its ally, President Bush issued threats against Moscow, Condoleezza Rice headed for Tbilisi and America poured aid into the devastated areas. Britain was invisible.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, once remarked, when Tony Blair was still prime minister, that we would miss him once he had been replaced by Gordon Brown. Well, I certainly do. If Blair were still in office the United Kingdom would have been more evident and effective during this crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las ganas de Adolfo Hitler por aprovechar los Juegos Olímpicos de 1936 en Berlín como escaparate del nazismo se convirtieron en rabia cuando el atleta norteamericano de raza negra Jesse Owens ganó cuatro medallas de oro. Los dirigentes chinos deben de estar preguntándose en estos momentos si organizar las Olimpiadas en Pekín va a reportar al régimen más elogios que críticas. Ten cuidado con lo que deseas, como probablemente debió de decir Confucio.

En defensa del movimiento olímpico hay que puntualizar que Berlín había sido seleccionada antes de que los nazis llegaran al poder. No hay ninguna excusa por el estilo, sin embargo, que ampare la decisión de conceder a Pekín un trofeo tan codiciado.…  Seguir leyendo »

Adolf Hitler’s glee at exploiting the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a showcase for Nazism turned to fury when the black American athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals. The Chinese leadership must by now be wondering whether staging the Games in Beijing will bring the regime more accolades than brickbats. Be careful what you wish for, as Confucius probably said.

In defence of the Olympic movement, Berlin had been selected before the Nazis came to power. No such excuse covers the decision to award the coveted prize to Beijing. In 1989 the Chinese government crushed the peaceful protests in Tiananmen Square as the world looked on in horror.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una de las peores meteduras de pata a lo largo de mi carrera política fue un intento frustrado de besar a Benazir Bhutto. Habíamos asistido a una reunión y, aunque hasta entonces no habíamos coincidido más que en algunas ocasiones, ella me saludó calurosamente, como si fuéramos viejos amigos, por lo que, cuando llegó el momento de despedirnos, fui a darle unos besos en las mejillas, como habría hecho con la mayor parte de mis colegas del sexo opuesto. Casi se echó a gritar y se escabulló de mí como pudo, dejando claro que semejante proximidad física resultaba absolutamente inapropiada.

Si mi falta de sensibilidad cultural tiene alguna excusa, es la de que esta mujer parecía evidentemente que se encontraba en su salsa en occidente.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una de las peores meteduras de pata a lo largo de mi carrera política fue un intento frustrado de besar a Benazir Bhutto. Habíamos asistido a una reunión y, aunque hasta entonces no habíamos coincidido más que en algunas ocasiones, ella me saludó calurosamente, como si fuéramos viejos amigos, por lo que, cuando llegó el momento de despedirnos, fui a darle unos besos en las mejillas, como habría hecho con la mayor parte de mis colegas del sexo opuesto. Casi se echó a gritar y se escabulló de mí como pudo, dejando claro que semejante proximidad física resultaba absolutamente inapropiada.

Si mi falta de sensibilidad cultural tiene alguna excusa, es la de que esta mujer parecía evidentemente que se encontraba en su salsa en occidente.…  Seguir leyendo »

Gordon Brown is receiving lessons in what it is like to be American. Whatever you think of our allies in Washington, they bear a burden for the world that lesser powers like Britain rarely experience fully. For example, they have attracted global opprobrium for locking up without trial in Guantanamo Bay some very dangerous men who might otherwise wreak mayhem in our cities. Also, Americans have for years had to watch mournfully as the star-spangled coffins returned home.

Now our government has agreed to take five former UK residents from Guantanamo. It must wrestle with the no-win problem of how to handle men against whom it may be impossible to bring a charge, but who could nonetheless be dangerous.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the absence of Tony Blair, sanity has returned to the national debate on security and civil liberties. His messianic certainties, along with his wish to score political points from terror, made it impossible to build consensus or even identify areas of honest disagreement.

Last year he asserted that the police needed the power to hold suspects for up to 90 days without charge. He offered nothing by way of evidence (except that some policemen wanted it) and he used the issue to paint the Conservatives as soft on terror.

Since Blair had previously claimed that Britain needed to go to war with Iraq to rid it of weapons of mass destruction, the House of Commons was disinclined to believe him and the government was defeated.…  Seguir leyendo »

Después de una década en el poder, Tony Blair renunció ayer a su cargo como primer ministro del Reino Unido, en medio de un coro de bostezos de sus propios compatriotas y abucheos de la mayor parte de sus correligionarios del Partido Laborista. Pues bien, si ni sus antiguos amigos ni sus votantes tienen una palabra de elogio hacia él, supongo que nos corresponderá a los demás expresar desde la oposición conservadora lo que es obvio: que Tony Blair ha sido un primer ministro extraordinario. Por supuesto, no por eso dejo de ver sus fallos, y, además, estoy en desacuerdo con una parte muy importante de lo que él ha significado; pero no tengo reparo en admitir que el Reino Unido es, en muchos sentidos, un lugar mejor de lo que era en 1997, razón por la que Blair merece que se le reconozca algún mérito.…  Seguir leyendo »

After a decade in power, Tony Blair steps down as prime minister of the United Kingdom on Wednesday to a chorus of yawns from his countrymen and hisses from most of his Labor Party colleagues. Well, if his former friends and voters don’t have a good word for him, I guess it’s up to one of us from the Conservative opposition to state the obvious: Tony Blair was a remarkable prime minister.

I’m not blind to his flaws and I disagree with much that he stood for, of course — but I also admit that Britain is in many ways a better place than it was in 1997, for which Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

"Tony Blair, president of Europe." The idea, which we thought long dead, has now been revived by President Sarkozy. We should be very suspicious of his motives and Blair’s likely reaction.

Before 2001 Blair was on course to clinch the job. It would be his reward for leading Britain into the euro currency, thus ending decades of dithering about its place in Europe. He would be the first prime minister to leave Downing Street on promotion. The full-time president, if that new role is created at next week’s summit, would have a huge salary and a suitable official residence.

But Blair’s chances of being elected nose-dived when he failed to deliver.…  Seguir leyendo »