Demonstrators disrupt Blair's comeback
After more than five years of focusing on foreign affairs and his business interests, Tony Blair makes his return to domestic politics tomorrow – 48 hours later than expected.
The former Prime Minister had been due to address Labour activists last night in Lambeth, south London, in an event organised by his long-standing ally Dame Tessa Jowell. But his appearance had to be cancelled at the last moment when anti-war protesters found out about the event and threatened to mount a large demonstration against his presence.
Instead, Mr Blair will speak tomorrow at a sport-themed Labour fundraising dinner at Arsenal's Emirates stadium. He will be alongside Ed Miliband, making it the first time that the former Prime Minister and the current Labour leader have appeared together at a public event since the general election.
At his side will be his former director of communications Alastair Campbell and the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. It will mark a further tentative step by Mr Blair back into the domestic arena since his unwilling departure from Downing Street in 2007.
In the intervening period he has built up a business portfolio, spoken frequently on the US lecture circuit, written his memoirs and pursued his unpaid role as the Quartet representative to the Middle East. But allies say he feels the time has come to switch his attention back to Britain.
One said: "He wants to be loved. He has spent a lot of time abroad and he wants to come home to domestic politics. He wants to be regarded as someone who won three elections – some people talk about him as if he lost three."
Behind the scenes, he is increasing his contact with Mr Miliband, with relations between them described as warm despite Mr Blair's preference for the elder Miliband, David, to inherit the Labour crown. Mr Blair recently paid tribute to Mr Miliband's leadership skills.
A source close to the Labour leader said: "This guy won three elections, so any contribution he makes is positive." However, for all his enthusiasm to re-engage in British politics, there was one invitation Mr Blair was happy to turn down. MPs on the Commons Justice Select Committee asked him to give evidence on the operation of the Freedom of Information Act.
He was an obvious witness to summon as he described the Act as one of the biggest mistakes of his time in office. The MPs asked him to appear in person. When he turned down the invitation, they asked him to submit written evidence, but he failed to do so.
One member, the Tory MP Elizabeth Truss, said: "He ought to have turned up. Given he was able to give an interview on the Rolling Stones over the same period, you would have thought he would have been able to give evidence on his role in government."
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Labour wants military schoolsA military school could be set up in every region of England under Labour to raise aspirations in poor areas. Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg wants to see the armed forces and service charities helping to run so-called "service schools".These would have a "distinct service ethos" and would employ qualified teachers, some with a forces background. The government said it already used Armed Forces talent to raise standards. Mr Twigg says: "The armed forces can make important contributions to the nation not just on the battlefield but by embedding standards and values they embody within our social fabric."One way this can be achieved is through educational provision."Cadet forcesHe said creating a "service ethos" in schools would emphasise "the importance of character formation and high ethical standards and values, as well as greater focus on advanced vocational skills. "Ex-service personnel can act as excellent role models for young people." Department for Education As part of its education policy review, Labour is looking at how it could establish a network of what it is calling "service schools" within existing or new schools around England. It says if it comes to power it will establish one of these schools in each region of the country with a particular focus on "communities with the greatest social and economic need". The involvement could be as sponsors of academies or by working closely with more traditional models of state schools. Mr Twigg also wants to encourage Ministry of Defence-run cadet forces to work with schools to offer extra-curricular activities. The cadet experience can engender a "sense of responsibility and citizenship", combining fun and companionship, he said. Troops in class "We want to spread this throughout all schools, while promoting lasting links between pupils from different backgrounds through their cadet experience," he added. The idea of involving the armed forces in children's education is not new. The Troops to Teachers programme, which aims to bring former service personnel into the classroom, won vocal support from the Conservative Party. And former servicemen and women are now being offered sponsorship to retrain as teachers by the government. Labour's idea is based on research by think-tank ResPublica entitled, Military Academies: Tackling disadvantage, improving ethos and changing outcomes.It argues that military-style academies would open up new opportunities for those lacking hope and aspiration. It says this new model of schooling offers "one policy solution to the social ills that became manifest at the time of the riots in summer 2011". It highlights the fact that two-thirds of those who are known to have taken part in the riots were classed as having some form of special educational need and more than a third had been excluded from school during 2009-10. It adds: "They would change the cultural and moral outlook of those currently engulfed by hopelessness and cynicism." Armed forces ethos A spokesman for the Department for Education said it was "already working to bring ethos and talents from Armed Forces into our education system to help raise standards". He added: "Through our £1.5m grant to the charity Skill Force, an extra 100 ex-service personnel are already making a valuable contribution as mentors for young people in challenging schools and communities across England. "Our Troops to Teachers programme is focussing on helping those leaving the armed services, with the potential to become great teachers, to make the transition to the classroom. "We are also looking at other way in which pupils can benefit, such as through schools or alternative provision with a distinct military ethos."