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Sunday, July 30, 2006




Blair sets out his stall to Murdoch's News Corp. by Phil Hazlewood
Sun Jul 30, 5:40 PM ET

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will set out a robust defence of his style of leadership and political ideology in a speech to senior executives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire.

The behind-closed-doors address, at the upmarket Pebble Beach resort near San Francisco, touches on many themes close to Blair's heart, from the need to fight Muslim extremism to climate change, globalisation and Third World debt.

Yet it can also be seen as a manifesto for his repositioning of the governing Labour party, which secured him the support of Murdoch's influential British tabloid The Sun before his landslide 1997 general election win.

Blair, 53, is not standing for a fourth, straight term at the next election but speculation is rife back home that he is keen to ensure the media tycoon's support for his likely successor, finance minister Gordon Brown.

The contents of the speech may please Murdoch, whose established free-market, pro-US, eurosceptic views are matched by a strong line supporting the war in Iraq and the global fight against extremism in his newspapers.

Blair will restate his position on the Middle East conflict and liken it to a wider, ideological struggle around the world between extremists and moderates, according to advance copies released to reporters.

"I have many opponents on the subject (of foreign policy) but complete inner confidence in the analysis of the struggle we face," he will say.

The comments echo his views in a British television interview earlier this year in which he said he made policy decisions according to his conscience, which is guided by his Christian faith.

"My concern is that we cannot win this struggle by military means or security measures alone, or even principally by them," he will add.

"We have to put our ideas up against theirs. But our cause will only triumph if people see it as based on even-handedness, on fairness, on a deep and genuine passion to help others."

Blair -- criticised for his support for Bush over Iraq and now the Middle East -- will tell the US-Australian tycoon and his executives that the Europe-US alliance is of "seminal importance" in global politics.

He will restate his "alarm" at growing anti-Americanism in a large part of the European media, describing it as "foolish, short-sighted and ultimately very dangerous".

Touching on globalisation, he will attack the traditional European welfare state and social model as "hopelessly inadequate" to meet the challenge of the modern competitive international market.

But significantly for newspapers that traditionally ally themselves to left or right wing parties, Blair will say that such distinctions no longer exist and there is "no steady state in political leadership today".

"Most confusingly for modern politicians, many of the policy prescriptions, cross traditional left/right lines," Blair, who took the left-wing Labour party to the centre ground after taking over as its leader in 1994, will say.

"Basic values, attitudes to the positive role of government, social objectives -- these still do divide along familiar party lines," he will add.

"But on policy the cross dressing is rampant and is a feature of modern politics that will stay. The era of tribal leadership is over."

Instead of the "neat filing of policy to the left or the right", there was now a division between "open versus closed" in global politics, he will say.

"Take the three '-isms' that run throughout most political debates in Europe and the US today. They're not socialism or capitalism. They're protectionism, isolationism, nativism, by which I mean to do with migration and national identity."

Blair will admit that voters are confused by the breakdown in traditional political alignments and set himself firmly on the "open" side, saying the constant pace of change forces modern leaders to adapt.

The alternative has "nothing to offer a nation except the delusion that the tide of change can be turned back; or alternatively a weaker version of the same delusion, namely that hard choices can just be evaded", he will add.

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