'Let us reorder this world'
Michael White, political editor
Wednesday October 3, 2001
Tony Blair yesterday turned his battle against the terrorists who ravaged New York into a far wider struggle for a new world order that would uphold human dignity and social justice "from the slums of Gaza to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan".
In what was almost certainly the most powerful speech of his career, the prime minister used his speech to the Labour conference to synthesise an uncompromising hostility to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network - and the Taliban if they do not give him up - with a vaunting promise to remake the world as a better place.
The sweep and moral fervour of the 54-minute address caught friend and foe off guard. There were no party political jibes and barely a triumphalist mention of Labour's historic June 7 election victory. The Conservatives damned the performance with faint praise.
Evidently sensitive to charges that he was sounding too confrontational, Mr Blair acknowledged that many people are fearful of what lies ahead - and sought to reassure voters whose unwavering support is vital to a long campaign.
"Our way of life is a great deal stronger and will last a greal deal longer than the actions of fanatics, small in number and now facing a unified world against them. People should have confidence. This is a battle with only one outcome: our victory, not theirs," he insisted.
Admitting his own helplessness in the face of so much bereavement on September 11, Mr Blair had earlier said of the dead: "They don't want revenge, they want something better in memory of their loved ones. I believe their memorial can and should be that out of the shadow of this evil should emerge lasting good."
The speech, which was, unusually, drafted by Mr Blair himself, also reflected his private moral preoccupations to an unusual degree. But before a largely secular audience it was repeatedly punctuated with bursts of applause in the packed but sombre Brighton conference centre, where the foreshortened 2001 conference ends today.
As the prime minister sat down he was praised for his vision and tone by friends and critics alike within Labour's ranks, though delegates may come down to earth with a jolt when they size up to the challenges he posed in the name of "the power of community" - local and global - to do good.
"He didn't deal with the whats and hows, but he certainly explained the why," said one former cabinet member. Some leftwingers and trade unionists, irked by the address's religiosity, called it "messianic" and lacking commitment to the means of righting the world's wrongs.
They were a minority. "Brilliant," said a senior colleague after hearing his party leader - famous for his regard for business tycoons - declare: "The starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, they are our cause too."
Throughout the day's debates senior ministers, including Jack Straw, Geoff Hoon and Clare Short, had stressed the importance of adhering to international law in the search for justice - a point echoed by the veteran Tony Benn in an emotional warning against the "sorrows of war".
An end to famine, poverty and corruption in Africa, as well as genocidal conflicts such as Rwanda's, were only part of an agenda that foresaw the world tackling such intractable problems as global warming and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - an "equal partnership" side by side in their own lands.
Though the back half of Mr Blair's text addressed the domestic agenda - the need to put improved public services before tax cuts - he repeatedly went out of his way to reconcile Islam with the west, above all with America.
For all its flaws the US, where a black child of poverty such as Colin Powell could rise to be secretary of state ("I wonder frankly whether such a thing could have happened here") was still a model to the world, he argued.
Nor had America lashed out, as some had predicted: "no missiles on the first night just for effect". When military strikes came they would be "proportionate, targeted - we will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties".
While the west must address its shameful ignorance of Islam, he later suggested, "it is time also for parts of Islam to confront prejudice against America" - not only Islam, but "parts of western societies too". That was loudly applauded in a conference where such sentiments have long existed.
But Mr Blair's conciliatory and idealistic tone was not extended to the enemy of the moment, whose version of Islam was "no more obedient to the proper teachings of the Koran" than the crusaders of the Middle Ages had exemplified the gospel message, he said.
"Be in no doubt Bin Laden and his people organised this atrocity," Mr Blair insisted. He offered no evidence, although he did suggest that terrorism finances itself through Afghan heroin sold on the streets of Britain.
His contempt for the Taliban and their denial of human rights, especially for women, was stinging. But he did not say, as Labour briefers had indicated overnight, that it was already too late to avoid military retribution.
"I say to the Taliban: surrender the terrorist or surrender power. It's your choice."
Mr Blair's pledge to defeat the "act of evil" that destroyed the World Trade Centre - "if they could have murdered not 7,000 but 70,000 does anyone doubt they would have done so and rejoiced?" - was only the trailer to a declaration that globalisation made cooperation between nations and cultures imperative.
"This is a moment to seize," he said. "The kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux, soon they will settle again. Before they do let us reorder this world around us and use modern science to provide prosperity for all.
"Science can't make that choice for us, only the moral power of a world acting as a community can."
TONY BLAIR 'REBORN' UNDER THE 'SACRED SERPENT' IN NEW AGE CEREMONY
SATURDAY DECEMBER 15 2001
Cherie stops Blair being stick in the mud
BY TOM BALDWIN, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
THEY rubbed fruits and mud over each other’s bodies. They screamed and went through a “rebirth”. Then they made a wish for world peace.
All in all, it made a change from everyday life for a nice English couple, Tony and Cherie, trying a New Age experience on the Mexican Riviera. They emerged refreshed even though the bit about world peace did not really work out.
It seems that the Prime Minister and his family had quite a holiday in August as they relaxed, for once, away from the glare of publicity. Journalists who accompanied them on a trade mission to Latin America were told only that the Blairs were staying behind for a private family holiday near the tropical resort of Cancún.
However, the Maroma Hotel, where rooms can cost up to $1,260 (£865) a night, has since proudly displayed a picture of the Blairs above its reception desk. Staff still talk about the “wonderful” experience of caring for Britain’s Prime Minister and his wife, who mixed amiably with other guests and tipped generously.
During their stay at the hotel, the Blairs were particularly impressed by the Temazcal, a Mayan steam bath, where they took part in a “rebirthing ritual” wearing nothing but their swimming costumes.
Mrs Blair, whose enthusiasm for New Age and alternative therapies is well known, initially went to the Temazcal on her own. But she so enjoyed the experience that she persuaded a slightly shy Prime Minister to join her the next evening.
The ceremony took place at dusk: Mr Blair and his wife, wearing bathing costumes, were led to the Temazcal, a brick-coloured pyramid on the south end of the beach.
According to the hotel brochure: “The Temazcal ritual is equally beneficial for the mind and spirit. Led by Nancy Aguilar, the participants are invited to meditate, feel at one with Mother Earth and experience inner feelings and visions.”
Ms Aguilar told the Blairs to bow and pray to the four winds as Mayan prayers were read out. Each side of the building is decorated with Mayan religious symbols: the sun and baby lizards representing spring and childhood; a bird to signify adolescence, summer and freedom; a crab to represent maturity and autumn; and a serpent — the most sacred in the Mayan Indian culture — to symbolise winter and transformation.
All that is even before you get inside. Within the Temazcal, a type of Ancient Mayan steam bath, herb-infused water was thrown over heated lava rocks, to create a cleansing sweat and balance the Blairs’ “energy flow”.
Ms Aguilar chanted Mayan songs, told the Blairs to imagine that they could see animals in the steam and explained what such visions meant.
They were told the Temazcal was like the womb and those participating in the ritual must confront their hopes and fears before “rebirth” and venturing outside. The Blairs were offered water melon and papaya, then told to smear what they did not eat over each other’s bodies along with mud from the Mayan jungle outside.
The Prime Minister, on holiday just a month before the September 11 attacks, is understood to have made a wish for world peace.
Before leaving, the Blairs were told to scream out loud to signify the pain of rebirth. They then walked hand-in-hand down the beach to swim in the sea.
Despite being a Roman Catholic, Mrs Blair has had a long interest in alternative therapies. She has been photographed wearing an acupuncture needle in the top of her ear as well as a “bio-electric shield” pendant filled with “magic crystals” to ward off harmful rays from computers and mobile phones. She has also been a client of Bharti Vyas, the New Age guru, whose holistic therapy centre in London she officially opened last month.
However, the involvement of her husband in such matters has previously been unknown. Those close to him suggested yesterday that he “probably went along with it to please Cherie”. A Downing Street spokesman said yesterday: “I’ve no idea whether all this is true. The Prime Minister, as you know, is in Belgium for the European summit. However, what I can tell you is that, like any other couple on holiday abroad, they enjoyed doing what the Romans do.”
Or indeed, the Ancient Mayans.
The Guardian (UK)
Jan. 27, 2004
[New Age] Quack addicts
By Francis Wheen
Cherie and Tony bonding in a muddy Mayan ritual - it's the ultimate example of how mumbo-jumbo has inundated Britain, writes Francis Wheen in this final extract from his fascinating new book
Everyone was at it. In Britain, allegedly the home of the stiff upper lip, the loopier manifestations of soul-baring may have been mocked but managerial mumbo-jumbo found an eager market. By 1995 the British government was spending well over £100m a year on management consultants, as branches of officialdom were forcibly transformed into "agencies". What had once been straightforward public services, such as the health system or the BBC, acquired their own internal markets - which in turn created new blizzards of paperwork and extra layers of bureaucracy, all in the name of efficiency ...
Tony Blair had never concealed his reverence for management gurus. In the summer of 1996 he dispatched 100 Labour frontbenchers to a weekend seminar at Templeton College, Oxford, where a posse of partners from Andersen Consulting lectured the wannabe ministers on "total quality service" and "the management of change". (The veteran Labour politician Lord Healey, who also spoke at the event, was unimpressed: "These management consultants are just making money out of suckers.") When Blair entered Downing Street, several executives from Andersen - and McKinsey, the other leading management consultancy - were seconded to Whitehall with a brief to practise "blue skies thinking". Soon afterwards, in perhaps the most remarkable manifestation of New Labour's guru-worship, they were joined by [lateral thinker] Dr Edward de Bono, whose task was "to develop bright ideas on schools and jobs".
In the autumn of 1998 more than 200 officials from the Department of Education were treated to a lecture from De Bono on his "Six Thinking Hats system" of decision-making. The idea, he explained, was that civil servants should put on a red hat when they wanted to talk about hunches and instincts, a yellow hat if they were listing the advantages of a project, a black hat while playing devil's advocate, and so on. "Without wishing to boast," he added, "this is the first new way of thinking to be developed for 2,400 years since the days of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle." So far as can be discovered, the education department has yet to order those coloured hats, but no doubt it benefited from his other creative insights: "You can't dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper"; "With a problem, you look for a solution"; "A bird is different from an aeroplane, although both fly through the air."
Gurus are safe enough while peddling ancient cliches disguised as revolutionary new strategies. It is when they seek out instances of this wisdom in action that they come a cropper: the entrepreneur-as-hero often turns out to be merely human after all. In his 1985 book Tactics: The Art and Science of Success, De Bono offered the lessons that might be learned from a number of people who "would generally be regarded as 'successful'." After studying these inspiring examples, "The reader should say, 'Why not me?"' The millionaires he extolled included Robert Maxwell, subsequently exposed as one of the most outrageous fraudsters in British history.
Even the no-nonsense Margaret Thatcher was a devotee of mystical "electric baths" and Ayurveda therapy. But she was a mere dabbler compared with more recent inhabitants of Downing Street. Cherie Blair found her devout Catholicism no impediment to flirtations with New Age spirituality - inviting a feng-shui expert to rearrange the furniture at No 10 and wearing a "magic pendant" known as the BioElectric Shield, which has "a matrix of specially cut quartz crystals" that surround the wearer with "a cocoon of energy" to ward off evil forces.
The catholicism - if not Catholicism - of her tastes was further demonstrated in 2002 by the revelation that she employed a former member of the Exegesis cult, Carole Caplin, as a "lifestyle guru". Through Caplin, the prime minister's wife was introduced to an 86-year-old "dowsing healer", Jack Temple, who treated her swollen ankles by swinging a crystal pendulum over the affected area and feeding her strawberry leaves grown within the "electro-magnetic field" of a neolithic circle he had built in his back garden.
It was long assumed that Tony Blair, who wears his Christianity on his sleeve, did not share his wife's unorthodox enthusiasms. But that was before he and Cherie had a "rebirthing experience" under the supervision of one Nancy Aguilar while holidaying on the Mexican Riviera in the summer of 2001. The Times's detailed account of the prime ministerial mudbath is worth quoting at some length:
"Ms Aguilar told the Blairs to bow and pray to the four winds as Mayan prayers were read out ... Within the Temazcal, a type of Ancient Mayan steam bath, herb-infused water was thrown over heated lava rocks, to create a cleansing sweat and balance the Blairs' 'energy flow'.
"Ms Aguilar chanted Mayan songs, told the Blairs to imagine that they could see animals in the steam and explained what such visions meant. They were told the Temazcal was like the womb and those participating in the ritual must confront their hopes and fears before 'rebirth' and venturing outside. The Blairs were offered watermelon and papaya, then told to smear what they did not eat over each other's bodies along with mud from the Mayan jungle outside.
"The prime minister, on holiday just a month before the 11 September attacks, is understood to have made a wish for world peace. Before leaving, the Blairs were told to scream out loud to signify the pain of rebirth. They then walked hand in hand down the beach to swim in the sea."
Although Mayan rebirthing rituals are not yet available in Britain through the National Health Service, some of Cherie Blair's other peculiar obsessions have already been adopted as official policy. In January 1999 the government recruited a feng-shui consultant, Renuka Wickmaratne, for advice on how to improve inner-city council estates. "Red and orange flowers would reduce crime," she concluded, "and introducing a water feature would reduce poverty. I was brought up with this ancient knowledge."
Two years later, the government announced that, for the first time since the creation of the NHS, remedies such as acupuncture and Indian ayurvedic medicine could be granted the same status as conventional treatments. According to the Sunday Times, "The inclusion of Indian ayurvedic medicine, a preventative approach to healing using diet, yoga and meditation, is thought to have been influenced by Cherie Blair's interest in alternative therapy." An all too believable suggestion, since Cherie was a client of the ayurvedic guru Bharti Vyas and officiated at the opening ceremony for her holistic therapy centre in London.
The swelling popularity of quack potions and treatments in recent years is yet another manifestation of the retreat from reason and scientific method. According to a 1998 survey by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the use of homeopathic preparations in the United States more than doubled between 1990 and 1997. In Britain, by the end of the 20th century the country's 36,000 general practitioners were outnumbered by the 50,000 purveyors of complementary and alternative medicine - some of whom receive the seal of royal approval.
The Queen carries homeopathic remedies with her at all times. Princess Diana was a devotee of reflexology, the belief that pressure applied to magical "zones" in the hands and feet can heal ailments elsewhere in the body. Prince Charles has been a prominent champion of "holistic" treatments since 1982.
Most alternative therapies, homeopathy included, are closer to mysticism than to medicine. This may explain their appeal to the British royal family, whose survival depends on another irrational faith - the magic of hereditary monarchy, so fiercely debunked by Tom Paine and other Enlightenment pamphleteers.
• Francis Wheen's How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions is published by 4th Estate. Francis Wheen will be appearing at Foyles bookshop in London on Thursday March 11 at 6.30pm. For further details call 0870 420 2777.
The Sunday Herald (UK)
Mar. 7, 2004
[Carole Caplin] When you take advice from a new age fashion guru what do you expect?
By James Cusick
Former boyfriends claims ahead of his book cause headache for Number 10
The abuse which today will begin raining down on the head of Peter Foster should come as no surprise to a convicted conman. In fact, Foster, now living in Australia, will be delighted at the effects his allegations are having at the other end of the world.
After all, advice on how to publicise a new book is much the same today as when Samuel Johnson said: Its better a man should be abused than be forgotten.”
Foster told an Australian newspaper: The heart of my book is the extraordinary influence that Carole has over Tony.
People think that Cherie is the ugly duckling who Carole advised with clothes and make-up and styling. The truth is that Tony relied on Carole too.”
He added: The intensity and the closeness of their relationship was something I saw and I was amazed by and annoyed by.”
Fosters allegation about the true relationship”, between his former fiancée, Carole Caplin, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has understandably been dismissed by Downing Street as publicity for his book”. But the alarm bells that rang in Number 10 during the run-up to Christmas 2002 when Cheriegate was in full swing, will be ringing again.
As a former Downing Street aide said last night: Invite a former topless model and New Age fashion guru into your household, take lifestyle advice from her and well ... what do you expect?” The view from one Number 10 source is that Caplin, alone, was acceptable as a friend of the Blairs. But when she took up with Foster, a convicted fraudster, it was seen as a risk too far.
The control freaks inside Number 10 – especially Blair himself and his former Director of Communications Alastair Campbell – did not defuse the potential timebomb, a lapse of judgement that has now come back to haunt Downing Street.
In July 2002, when Foster and Caplin met and fell for each other, Caplin had already enjoyed long access to the Blairs. Cherie Blair met Caplin at a gym in 1992. By 1994, when the new Labour leaders wife was juggling children, her career as a leading barrister and the responsibility of becoming a prime ministers wife, she took on Caplin as her adviser on fitness, fashion and probably feng shui.
Caplins influence is said to have extended to Tony Blair in the small matter of tie selection and sartorial presentation. Foster, in his accusations, goes much much further. She picked his clothes, right down to his underpants.”
Back in July 2002, Caplins position at the centre of the Blair court, would have been alluring to Foster. His past exploits included selling imaginary boxing matches featuring Mohammed Ali in Australia and serial offences in the fake slimming pills market. He was not slow to spot an opportunity to sell himself to Caplin.
The relationship between someone like Foster and a woman so close to Cherie Blair should have alarmed Downing Street. However, the past exploits of Caplins new beau seemed initially at least to have rung few warning bells in Number 10.
Fosters past could certainly not be hidden. He had a bankruptcy record in Australia; had defrauded an insurance company; and, since first coming to the UK in 1986, he had promoted bogus slimming substances. That had led to jail, fines, deportation and extradition to the UK from Australia to face fraud charges. He had also been a regular subject of investigations by the BBCs Thats Life programme.
Cheriegate’’, as it was dubbed by the press, was a disaster waiting to happen. When Cherie Blair had concealed and was then forced to admit Fosters help in her acquisition of two Bristol flats at the end of 2002, it was a political nightmare for Number 10 that was intense and short-lived. You might have expected that the Blairs’ relationship with Caplin would have been brought to an abrupt end.
But in the summer of 2003, Caplins influence over Cherie Blair was evidently still there when Marie Claire magazine sent a reporter and photographer to do a feature on the PMs wife. It photographed Cherie and her friend sitting on the edge of the Blairs matrimonial bed, Caplin applying lip-gloss to Cheries mouth.
Fiona Millar, Alastair Campbells partner, had been Cheries diary secretary since the Blairs first entered Number 10 in 1997. (She began working for Cherie in 1995 on Alastair Campbells recommendation.) Millar also unofficially looked after Cheries press coverage, effectively ensuring it was minimal and positive.
The Marie Claire piece highlighted a glaring problem. Millar had lost all control over Cherie. Despite the scandal of Cheriegate” Caplin was still enjoying open access to Downing Street.
All trust between Cherie and Millar is said to have evaporated in the months after the affair.
Although Foster had gone back to Australia and was no longer Caplins fiancee, Caplin herself was still being seen in and around Downing Street seven months after Cheriegate.
The Blairs in the autum of 2003 had had a tough year. Having survived the criticisms of going to war in Iraq, the summer row with the BBC and its reporter Andrew Gilligan and the suicide of Dr David Kelly in mid-July, the coming Hutton Inquiry was going to make the rest of the year no political easy ride.
Tensions inside Downing Street are reported to have been very high. The Marie Claire piece was said to have finally confirmed to Millar that her decision (taken in May 2003) to leave Downing Street was a piece of good timing. Campbell, during the Hutton Inquiry, announced he would going too.
Caplin was still seen as a continuing risk. In September of last year, any notion that Carole Caplin was an acceptable risk to the Blair was dispelled.Her access to Downing Street and to Chequers was halted. Inside Downing Street a decision had been taken to end the “public” appearance of Carole Caplin as a person with influence inside the court of the Blairs. However it is understood that a relationship – at a distance – continued.
Carole Caplan is still in contact with the Blairs and is still bound by the lengthy legal agreement she signed not to divulge any of the secrets she holds about life inside Downing Street.
In Focus (Bro. Tom Hanks, etc.)