A people's holiday for Blair

It is remarkable that two political leaders with differing political views and with the thorny problem of Gibraltar between them can become such good friends. But this is the case with Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar, (the Spanish Prime Minister) who will be spending part of their holiday together in a private house on the outskirts of Mahon in Minorca. Aznar makes no secret of the fact that he admires Blair. His friendship with the British Prime Minister has often been questioned especially at the height of the Tireless debacle. But I think there is more to Blair's visit to the Balearics than actually meets the eye. As far as I am concerned, even though I welcome him coming to the Balearics, Blair and the rest of his cabinet should be holidaying in Britain this year because foot and mouth disease has decimated the British tourist industry. Blair will be spending part of his holiday at home and the remainder will be in Britain's premier holiday-spot, the Balearic Islands. A very wise move. He is showing that he is a man of the people (because after all three million British tourists will have holidayed in the Balearics), he is building on a friendship with Aznar and also giving the Balearics a helping hand. Nice one, Tony.

Jason Moore

Money matches results

The recent criticism that the British prime minister is paying himself too much (at around £160'000 a year) should be tested against the kind of agenda which Tony Blair is currently handling. He has just spent ten days in intensive negotiations to keep alive the prospect of peace in Northern Ireland. Yesterday he faced hostile trade unions and professionals in health and education as he insisted that he would “not flinch” from using the private sector to reform public services. Tomorrow he has meetings with President Bush which will touch on such sensitive issues as the US's missile defence project, for which Britain's co-operation is needed, and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, on which Britain and Europe find themselves opposed to the President's policy. A short visit to North America and Mexico and the G8 meeting of industrialised nations in Genoa follow almost immediately. The Northern Ireland negotiations have required sustained attention because all sides involved in the deteriorating situation in the province have had to be consulted in depth. Fortunately, the British and Irish governments have marched in step and are now jointly preparing a package of proposals on each of the outstanding issues decommisioning of IRA and other militants' weapons, reform of the police, and demilitarisation, principal among them. Not everyone will agree with everything in the package but if there is a sufficiently broad acceptance of the main proposals it should be possible to keep existing power-sharing institutions functioning. If there is not, either the Northern Ireland Assembly will have to be suspended or new elections held; the deadline is 12 August. The close co-operation established between Dublin and London is of vital importance in this potentially dangerous situation.

Ray Fleming

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