Blair's seven sins which will tarnish his legacy

JANE MERRICK
UK Daily Mail
Monday, March 19, 2007

Tony Blair is guilty of "seven mortal sins" which will leave him with the same tarnished legacy as John Major, Britain's sleaze watchdog has said.

Sir Alistair Graham said the Prime Minister was personally responsible for a collapse in public trust on a par with the dying days of the last Conservative Government.

The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life attacked Mr Blair's record on everything from cash-for-peerages to Iraq during his ten-year rule.

He said that confidence in the morality of those who govern the country was as low as it was a decade ago when Labour came to power on the back of Tory sleaze.

John Major's last years in power were dominated by the cash-for-questions scandal and a string of affairs involving Ministers.

The standards committee was set up in 1994 in the wake of the scandals. But 13 years on, Sir Alistair said little had changed, despite Mr Blair promising in 1997 to be "purer than pure".

Sir Alistair spoke out after being told last week he will not be re-appointed as the standards watchdog when his three-year term expires next month.

He said: "I suspect Blair and his government are going to be as strongly identified with the loss of public trust as Major’s was with sleaze. The public certainly feel let down over the period.

"The most fundamental thing is that Blair has betrayed himself. He set such a high bar for people to judge him and he has fallen well below the standards he set for himself."

Mr Blair's "seven sins" were:

• The cash-for-peerages scandal, which arose from the 'personal decision' by Mr Blair to take secret loans;

• Iraq, where the case for war "undermined trust on a key issue where the lives of British soldiers were at risk";

• Mr Blair's "sofa-style" of decision making which overrrode Cabinet government;

• "Shocking political interference" in a fraud investigation by ending the inquiry into alleged corruption over BAE’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia;

• The failure to properly investigate alleged breaches of the ministerial code - involving David Blunkett, John Prescott and Tessa Jowell;

• Postal voting, which despite public concerns was made a "central plank of the electoral system and so leaving our system open to fraud";

• An "undue reliance on spin" and special advisers.

Sir Alistair added: "These are seven serious accusations that can be personally made against the prime minister where he’s failed on ethical standards and he has to take responsibility for that."

Mr Blair should be accountable for the "very significant loss of trust" between politicians and the public, he added in an interview with the Sunday Times.

The decision not to re-appoint Sir Alistair has fuelled fears that the standards committee will be scrapped altogether.

He said he believed that Gordon Brown's expected arrival as Prime Minister later this year will mark a departure from Mr Blair's handling of sleaze and that the Chancellor is preparing reforms to clean up politics.

The watchdog met Mr Brown four times in the past few months and was encouraged by his interest in standards issues.

Sir Alistair also hit out at MPs for awarding themselves excessive perks.

He added: "They seem to be able to apply a differing standard than most ordinary people expect to achieve. They are able to put a claim in for expenses up to a figure of £250 without providing a detailed receipt.

"MPs also awarded themselves pensions which no-one could hope to replicate."

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