Evening Standard comment: When Tony Blair speaks, we all should still listen

EVENING STANDARD COMMENT

Cassandra was cursed in Greek mythology to speak the truth but never be listened to. That feels like Tony Blair’s fate in our age.

For a prime minister who once bestrode British politics like a colossus, it is a personal tragedy — born of both the accumulated attrition of years in government and mistakes after leaving office.

Yet, in his interview with the Evening Standard today from inside his ultra-modern new HQ in Fitzrovia, Mr Blair makes some observations that are hard to disagree with.

Brexit is a massive distraction for a country that should be focused on the opportunity of the future, not nostalgia for the past.

No matter what you think of Donald Trump, a Britain leaving the EU has little choice but to welcome him here.

Meanwhile here at home the weakness of the current premiership means “we effectively have no government” (a point made by a growing number of Tory MPs at the weekend).

At the same time, the Corbynista takeover of the Labour leadership is “much worse” than the battle against the militants in the Eighties; while their plan to spend billions on renationalising industry and abolishing tuition fees means money won’t be available for the public services people care about like education.

All of this leads to an inescapable conclusion: if British politics only offers the country a choice between the hard Left and hardline Tory Brexiteers, then that leaves a large group of unrepresented people in the centre and sooner or later that political energy will find an outlet.

Mr Blair knows he cannot be that voice; but it would be foolish not to listen to his prophecies.

Giving consent

Rape is a horrific crime which can wreck the victim’s life, and the justice system must take it seriously. The question is how.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, in her interview with the Evening Standard today addresses the issue of consent and suggests women who do not consent should make this clear.

She identifies two aspects of consent that the Crown Prosecution Service takes into account. The first is whether the woman is in a position to give consent — and is not incapacitated by drink.

The other is whether the man is aware of whether the woman has agreed to sex: “Did the [rape] suspect have a reasonable belief in consent?”

This seems fair. In cases of “acquaintance rape” the issue of consent — often one person’s word against another’s — is especially difficult.

It may seem no more than common sense for the DPP to say that it is difficult to prosecute if the woman’s lack of consent is unclear, but this bears repeating. Yet the context is crucial; a woman may be too terrified to speak out.

The backdrop to this is the controversy over a number of rape defendants, including three London men, who were accused of rape, only to have the case dropped shortly before coming to trial because evidence had not been fully disclosed to the defence.

And this in turn has been attributed to concerns about a low conviction rate in rape cases, something Ms Saunders denies.

These concerns are justified, but the cases that are brought must be sound.

Ms Saunders’ comments today may help.

Heroes on screen


Gary Oldman and Claire Foy richly deserve their success at the Screen Actors Guild awards yesterday — triumphing for their portrayals of Winston Churchill and the Queen on screen.

Their awards for best actor and best actress are not just a tribute to their talent but to the global standing of the characters they play. In challenging times for our country, Britain’s heroes still count.

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