KNIGHT OF MALTA TONY ‘POPISH’ BLAIR (DVD) SECRETLY HANDLES DAVID CAMERON
A new special relationship: Cameron holds eight conversations with Blair on how to run the country
By Tim Shipman, Deputy Political Editor
PUBLISHED: 23:13, 29 May 2012 | UPDATED: 23:13, 29 May 2012
David Cameron has developed a ‘special relationship’ with Tony Blair, holding at least eight conversations with him on how to run the country.
Mr Blair visited Mr Cameron’s official country residence of Chequers last July – a meeting that has previously never been disclosed by Downing Street.
The pair have also had at least seven phone conversations since Mr Cameron took the keys to No10, a rate of around once every three months.
Mr Cameron and Mr Blair had a phone chat as recently as February this year.
They also spoke in January and have another call scheduled for September according to Downing Street sources.
Officials have previously admitted Mr Blair has briefed Mr Cameron in his capacity as a Middle East envoy. But the full extent of their conversations has never before been revealed.
Well-placed sources admit their discussions stray far beyond foreign affairs and into how the Government should reform public services and the civil service. They have also discussed the euro crisis and the economy.
Mr Blair has also been advising Mr Cameron on how to cope with the rigours of the job as he undergoes the most testing time of his premiership.
‘They have a lot to talk about,’ said a senior source. ‘It is quite a special relationship between one Prime Minister and another. Who else knows what you’re going through?
‘They ostensibly talk about the Middle East but when you’ve got him on the phone it is natural to talk politics.’
Mr Blair has also had discussions on public service reform with senior ministers and it is understood he has held talks with Mr Cameron’s recently departed policy guru Steve Hilton.
Labour peer Lord Adonis, who helped pioneer Mr Blair’s academy schools programme, which Education Secretary Michael Gove has dramatically expanded, was in No10 for talks with Mr Cameron on Monday. That meeting was also previously kept quiet by No10. Senior Tory sources say the Prime Minister has not ruled out offering a job to Lord Adonis, who is supposed to be running Labour’s own industrial policy review.
Mr Cameron’s policy unit has also been consulting Matthew Taylor and Geoff Mulgan, two former heads of Mr Blair’s Downing Street policy unit.
Details of the extensive web of contacts are likely to enrage partisans on both Tory and Labour benches.
Tory backbenchers are already concerned Mr Cameron spends as much time listening to the Liberal Democrats as he does Conservative backbenchers. Mr Cameron gained notoriety with his own party by dubbing himself the ‘heir to Blair’ during the 2005 leadership contest. The disclosure he is advising Mr Cameron will send many into orbit.
Mr Blair has let it be known he wants to play a larger role in domestic politics. But it will surprise Labour loyalists he is lending his wisdom to Mr Cameron as well as Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Mr Blair is privately said to admire Mr Cameron who has sought to drag his party to the political centre ground and has advised him how to get around obstructionists in the civil service who slow the pace of reform.
To the fury of their party grassroots, many Cameroons regard Mr Blair as a folk hero whose attempts to reform the public services they must build on.
A senior Tory said: ‘His influence is very firmly felt. He’s like the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo – gone but still greatly admired.’
Tory backbencher Stewart Jackson pointedly observed that Mr Blair, unlike Mr Cameron, has won a general election.
He said: ‘Mr Cameron is facing mid term difficulties with the euro crisis, a lack of growth in the economy and having to put up with the Liberal Democrats.
‘I don’t blame him for seeking advice from a variety of sources including Tony Blair, who after all has actually won an election.
‘But he needs to remember he is actually in a coalition not just with the Lib Dems but also with the rest of his party.’