Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Insider: A Struggle for Mandela, Saint Bob Shuns IDS, and Blair Makes Pals with Mike Baldwin

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Insider: A Struggle for Mandela, Saint Bob Shuns IDS, and Blair Makes Pals with Mike Baldwin

Article excerpt

The war on poverty in Africa is shaping up to be a minor skirmish compared with the raging conflict over who is best friends with the world's greatest living statesman. Nelson Mandela is the latest battleground between the Blairites and Brownites, with each camp claiming him for its own. Blairites claim Tony has known him longest and, what's more, Cherie also gets on well with him. Brownites counter that Gordon is very close to Mandela, the great man ringing the Chancellor for 15 minutes to offer congratulations the day baby John was born. Brown has taken to handing visitors a book of Mandela's speeches. He penned a note in a copy for Midge Ure, commiserating with him that so few remember how the former Ultravox singer founded Live Aid 20 years ago with Sir Bob Geldof.

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The quiet man of politics, Iain Duncan Smith, is seeking his own mini-summit with Saint Bob before embarking on a tour of Africa. As chairman of the Centre for Social Justice, which he founded last year, the short-lived leader of the Tories wants Saint Bob to help him understand why in Britain we supposedly suffer from spiritual poverty while in Africa they don't, even though they are poor. Sheila Gunn, John Major's old press secretary, rang on IDS's behalf only to learn that Saint Bob's diary is full--and IDS is now the invisible man.

Pasty-looking Geoff Hoon's relief at escaping a challenge from Robert Kilroy-Silk's tan may prove short-lived. The Veritas leader performed the fastest chicken run in history by abandoning his proposed challenge to Hoon's 13,000 majority in Ashfield, to take on the anonymous Elizabeth Blackman in Erewash. She sits atop a more vulnerable majority of 7,000. But a group of textile workers may yet challenge Hoon. The hapless Defence Secretary mistakenly shut their factory after his office mixed up the names of two local companies. …

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