Politics latest news: Radical Islam is 'a global challenge and getting worse', says Tony Blair

Tony Blair said it would be 'unwise' to downgrade the threat posed by such groups - PA
Tony Blair said it would be 'unwise' to downgrade the threat posed by such groups - PA

The threat posed by radical Islam is of the "first order" and one that is "getting worse", Tony Blair has warned.

The former prime minister called on leaders from around the world - including China and Russia - to develop a common strategy to counter the menace to their societies.

"In my view, Islamism, both the ideology and the violence, is a first order security threat; and, unchecked, it will come to us, even if centred far from us, as 9/11 demonstrated," he said. "This is a global challenge and one that is getting worse."

In a speech to the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) military think tank, Mr Blair said governments should prepare for the prospect of bio-terrorism by "non-state actors" and would be "unwise" to downgrade the threat posed by such groups.

"We should decide it as a matter of strategy, we shouldn't blunder into it, because it's a big decision. It means you reposition a lot of your analysis of the world.

"My view is that you can't be sure, but it would be unwise to delegate it to a second order threat. I don't see it diminishing."

​​Follow the latest updates below.

10:23 AM

Minister: There will be 'no consensus' on how to pay for social care reform

A minister has signalled the Government's willingness to force through tax rises to fund social care reform amid widespread criticism, saying there will be "no consensus" over how best to do it.

James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, confirmed that the social care plan would be brought forward this week, having been "necessarily deferred" during the pandemic.

"There are still three years of this Parliament to go and we still have a majority of 80, which enables the Government to deal with hard issues," he told Sky News.

"There will be no consensus over any option that may be put forward by the Chancellor, but Parliament and the nation needs to deal with it. It has been ducked by too many governments."

He added: "This reform is needed but it’s not going to be easy."

10:21 AM

Chancellor is 'fiscal Conservative', insists senior Tory

Rishi Sunak is still committed to Conservative principles of low taxation, despite having had to ratchet up spending during the pandemic. a former minister has said.

"The Chancellor is very much fiscally minded, a fiscal Conservative," Stephen Hammond told Sky News. "He is pretty clear that we have had to face exceptional circumstances... but by instinct we are still a low tax party."

He noted that "high quality services don't come free" and the "strains" of the pandemic have forced spending up.

But the MP for Wimbledon signalled his reluctance to end Universal Credit next month, saying this was something he would be looking closely at.

10:17 AM

Raiding National Insurance wrong way to pay for social care, says former minister

A former minister has said "raiding National Insurance" is not the right way to fund the cost of social care.

Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon, told Sky News that "taxes on consumption" or "savings elsewhere" would be preferential to National Insurance because of the "issue of inter-generational fairness".

He added: "There are better ways of funding it... but we are going to have to find more money to pay for it."

But he also ruled out rising capital gains tax, saying this would choke off economic growth.

Mr Hammond said the Government must be "very, very careful" about breaking manifesto pledges, warning it might not "make us as electable in the future as we were in the past".

10:00 AM

Tony Blair: UK should 'repair' relationship with EU as US becomes more introspective

The UK should "repair" its relationship with European allies because the US looks set to become more focused on domestic issues, Tony Blair has said.

While he stressed the need for the special relationship to be maintained, he said it was clear that "for the foreseeable future, they are going to look after their own interests in a quite narrowly defined way".

The former prime minister added: "Now with Europe, if I was back in office today, realise you have got to repair relationship. Because you can change political relationship but you can't change your geography, or your history...

"There should be serious discussion between Britain and our European neighbours about what we now do."

09:54 AM

'We didn't need to be in this position': Tony Blair says on Afghanistan withdrawal

Tony Blair has refused to criticise the current UK Government's handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying "I don't know what has happened behind the scenes".

But he added: "We didn't need to be in this position."

The prime minister told a Rusi event: "If you go back to 2019, the challenges were very evident but we had a sustainable situation."

09:50 AM

Short-term politics and a lack of 'strong centre' failing on strategy, says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has attacked "short term politics" for failing to create a stronger strategy for dealing with the rise of radical Islam.

Speaking during a Rusi event, the former prime minister said that right-wing politicians have become isolationist and anti-Islam, but parts of left mis-interpret being anti-radical Islam was Islamaphobic.

So "a strong centre" is needed.

Politics should become less "partisan and divided so at least this notion is held in common," he adds.

09:43 AM

West must not forget Taliban is 'fundamentally hostile' to our lifestyle, says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has said the West should "never forget" that the Taliban's ideology is "fundamentally hostile" to the way we lead our lives.

Asked if the group could now be considered on different terms to other radical Islamist groups, the former prime minister said the UK "may well have to engage" with the Taliban but should do so "on very clear terms and with some leverage to hold them to account.

"But we have got to be very clear that the ideology they subscribe to is still their ideology... and one that not everyone has chosen to live by."

He told a Rusi event that even when engaging with the Taliban, the West must be "mindful of the fact that... at a certain point [these groups] come together and are ideologically coherent", even if they appear to be at odds.

09:37 AM

Western governments 'unwise' to downgrade threat posed by radical Islam, says Tony Blair

Western governments would be "unwise" to downgrade the threat posed by radical Islam to a "second order", Tony Blair has said.

Speaking at a Rusi event, the former prime minister said: "We should decide it as a matter of strategy, we shouldn't blunder into it, because it's a big decision. It means you reposition a lot of your analysis of the world.

"My view is that you can't be sure, but it would be unwise to delegate it to a second order threat. I don't see it diminishing."

Noting that "Covid-19 has taught us about deadly pathogens," he added: "Bio-terror possibilities may seem like the realm of science fiction; but we would be wise now to prepare for their potential use by non-state actors."

09:31 AM

Counter-terrorism would not have been enough to deal with al-Qaeda after 9/11, says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has defended the decision to invade Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, saying "merely going and trying to deal with al-Qaeda would not have been acceptable" to the public in the aftermath.

The former prime minister added: "I don't think you can deal with these groups... simply by counter terrorism measures.

"They hold territory, they build capacity - and they are prepared to take large numbers of casualties," he told a Rusi event.

09:25 AM

Tony Blair attacks Joe Biden over 'forever wars' rhetoric

Tony Blair has attacked the use of the phrase "forever wars" to describe Afghanistan.

Although he stressed he "admired and liked" Joe Biden, Mr Blair said the US President's repeated use of the term was "deeply disdaining".

The former prime minister noted "we haven't ended this war", but stressed it was "not forever", noting that while the US presence in Afghanistan had lasted 20 years, the Cold War lasted much longer.

"It's not a good way of making policy.. it's not really based on an analysis," he added.

09:19 AM

Tony Blair: West must rebuild capacity for long-term strategic thinking

Tony Blair has raised the prospect that "we need some boots on the ground" but noted the "very limited appetite for engagement".

The former prime minister said: "Naturally our preference is for the boots to be locale but that will not always be possible."

He noted that "Western societies and their leaders have become understandably averse" to military interventions, but "the problem this gives rise to is obvious".

Mr Blair explained: "If the more casualties that are inflicted, the more our political will erodes the incentives structure is plain."

Nato should be able to act when "America is unwilling", he tells the Rusi event, warning that the "alarming development" in recent times has been the retreat from long-term thinking.

09:14 AM

Global consensus must confront 'violence and ideology' of radical Islam, says Tony Blair

The West must confront "both the violence and ideology" of radical Islam through a "combination of both hard and soft power", Tony Blair has said.

The leading powers of the world "must unite to develop an agreed strategy", the former prime minister told a Rusi event, including China and Russia who "have an interest in countering this ideology".

Some of our best allies will be found "in the many Muslim countries desperate to retain their religion from extremism", he adds.

Even recently the Taliban was not popular domestically - they won control of Afghanistan "by violence, not persuasion", Mr Blair says.

09:10 AM

Radical Islam is 'a global challenge and getting worse', says Tony Blair

Tony Blair has said his plan for a speech on reflections on the 20 years since 9/11 have "dramatically changed as a result of the last few days".

Speaking at Rusi event, the former prime minister noted that the Taliban's radical Islam ideology was in "inevitable conflict" with the "open, modern societies" of the West.

The "fundamental, strategic question" is whether the ideology is "a problem or only its manifestation in violent extremism".

He argues that left unchecked, it will "come at us" as we saw in the 9/11 attacks.

"This is a global challenge and one that is getting worse," he adds.

09:01 AM

Scottish independence will be ‘Brexit times 10’, warns Sturgeon’s economic adviser

One of Nicola Sturgeon’s new hand-picked economic advisers has warned independence would be “Brexit times 10” thanks to the much deeper economic ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Prof Mark Blyth, who was appointed to the First Minister’s new economic advisory council in July, said that “pulling apart” more than three centuries of economic integration would “hurt a lot.”

In an interview given only days before his appointment was announced by the Scottish Government in July, he said adopting a different currency and economic policy from the remainder of the UK would mean “significant short to medium-term costs.”

In particular, he said it would mean erecting trade barriers with the English market, which is the destination for 60 per cent of Scottish exports.

Read more here.

08:47 AM

Minister: I feared my words contributed to death of colleague

A minister has said he has spent the weekend fearing his comments on the withdrawal from Afghanistan contributed to "the suicide of a colleague".

James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "A suicide note was shared on social media at the back end of last week which referred in very, very accurate detail to the tour that I served on...

"Because it lays the blame (on) the words of politicians in saying that this wasn't all in vain, I have spent the weekend thinking that my words on this subject might have contributed to the suicide of a colleague," he added.

"After saying that on Sky News this morning I was told from a number of people who contacted the MoD press office, and an awareness, I think, already within the MoD over the weekend, that potentially that that suicide note may not be real.

"I am deeply embarrassed to have reflected on something which I had seen on social media and struck me as very true and had affected me deeply."

See 8:10am, 9:07am and 9:33am for more.

08:33 AM

Minister apologises for suggesting veteran took life over Afghanistan withdrawal

A minister has apologised for having suggested a veteran took their own life as a result of the withdrawal from Afghanistan before it had been verified.

James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, told Sky News this morning: "It is my understanding in the last few days there have been people who have taken their life - certainly a person who has taken their life - who did so because of their feeling over the consequences of withdrawal."

However he subsequently said it may have been "inaccurate" (see 8:10 and 9:07am).

He has also apologised on Twitter.

08:25 AM

Vaccine passports 'best way to avoid another lockdown', says virologist

Virologist and lecturer at Exeter Medical School Dr David Strain has backed the use of vaccine passports.

He told LBC on Monday: "We've seen the halfway house of 'you can either be vaccinated or have a lateral flow test' in festivals where then 5,000 people came back with the virus.

"Vaccine passports are the best way to avoid another lockdown."

08:18 AM

Afghan withdrawal should remind public of 'debt owed' to veterans, says minister

A minister and former soldier has opened up about his own feelings prompted by the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, told Radio 4's Today programme he had spent "much of the last decade feeling like the country has moved on, and other wars... are more important.

He said that while he did not "celebrate anything" that has been witnessed from the withdrawal, "other than the extraordinary professionalism" of those serving, it had brought the role of the Armed Forces in Afghanistan "back into sharp focus, and reminded us of the debt we owe them".

08:07 AM

Minister 'embarrassed' after referring to reason for veteran suicide before it was verified

James Heappey has reiterated his call for the public to help support army veterans who are "feeling particularly vulnerable" in the wake of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"Everything we can do to tell them their service is valued, respected, it wasn't in vain, is valuable," he told Radio 4's Today programme, as he said people should "just keep an eye on them" amid fears for their mental well-being.

"There have been far too many suicides over the last 10 years already, and this morning... I have referred to a suicide note that I have seen on social media, that appeared to show a soldier... having taken his life.

"I have since been told that isn't verified yet, we aren't certain it is real. And while I am embarrassed that I referred to it in the media without knowing it is real, I do think it highlights a very important point that that cohort of veterans will be feeling more vulnerable right now, they will be questioning whether their service was worth it."

See 8:10am for more.

07:56 AM

Taliban taking full control of Afghanistan 'does not change the calculation', says minister

The Taliban taking full control of Afghanistan "does not change the calculation" when it comes to formal recognition of the group, a minister has said.

The last pocket of resistance in Afghanistan, the Panjshir Valley, has been "completely captured", the Taliban announced this morning.

James Heappey, the armed forces minister, told Sky News "we are hearing that too", although said it was "hard to verify that independently" because of the lack of military presence on the ground.

But he added: "I don't think situation in the Panjshir really changes the calculation, that from the moment we left, the Taliban really were the government of Afghanistan... That doesn't mean we recognise the Taliban."

He added: "It is their actions in government, not their military prowess, that will determine that."

07:49 AM

Now is an "appropriate time" to withdraw Universal Credit uplift - despite "pain" for some, says minister

It is the "appropriate time" to withdraw the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit, a minister has said, despite the "pain" it will cause for some.

The top-up, which was introduced as a result of the pandemic, is due to end next month, despite widespread opposition from campaigners and MPs - including senior Conservatives such as Iain Duncan Smith.

But James Heappey, the armed forces minister, told Sky News it was "appropriate to withdraw that [uplift] now there is opportunity for people to look for work.

"The Government is making sure of its numbers before doing this... but the jobs market is quickly growing, so this is potentially the moment to withdraw that £20 to Universal Credit, as painful as it may be for some," he added.

07:37 AM

National Insurance is wrong way to protect people from social care costs, says former minister

A former minister has said it is "completely natural" to want to protect wealth built up over a lifetime, but that it should not be left to National Insurance to do so.

Jake Berry, chair of the Northern Research Group, told Radio 4's Today programme he was "working with colleagues" to get his message across to the Government that alternative routes would be fairer.

He said: "It's completely natural that people who have worked hard for their entire life, whether that is in Surrey... or Rossendale and Darwen, who have paid off their mortgage, want to pass that onto their children."

"Wanting to protect people and families from excessive costs is right -I just don't believe we should do it by putting up National Insurance."

07:31 AM

Raise income tax, not National Insurance, to cover social care, says Tory MP

The head of one of the key Tory caucuses in Westminster has called for the Government to increase income tax as a more equitable solution to the social care crisis.

Jake Berry, chair of the Northern Research Group and a former minister, told Radio 4's Today programme National Insurance was not the right tax to rise because it "doesn't really seem reasonable" to make lower-paid and younger workers "support people to keep their houses in other parts of the country".

He congratulated Boris Johnson for "tackling this issue", but said he should "level with the British public" and increase income tax.

"It would seem a much better thing to raise income tax across the spectrum... because at least everyone would pay for that, including those pensioners who receive a very high-level pension", he added, questioning why Sajid Javid, the former Chancellor, had had a "Damascene conversion" on the right tax to fund social care.

07:18 AM

Labour: We won't publish social care plan until election campaign

The proposed rise in National Insurance will "hit younger workers and lower paid workers" hardest, Labour's shadow social care minister has said.

Liz Kendall told Radio 4's Today programme the plan must have "fairness at its heart".

Challenged over what Labour would do differently, she said the party would "set out our plans before the election when we know what the economic conditions are at the time".

Any tax rises would fall on "those with the broadest shoulders".

07:16 AM

Government say 'they have got social care plan but all they have is a tax rise', says Labour

Labour's shadow social care minister has attacked the Government's proposals for dealing with the problem, arguing ministers have said "they have got a plan but in fact all they have got is a tax rise".

Liz Kendall said the proposed cap on costs would "do nothing" for those working age adults who require aid, or improve quality, as well as dealing with the sector's workforce shortages, training or modernising.

She also noted that the cap would only help between 30 and 50,000 people - but a million people use social care.

"That is really only a very small part of the problem," she added.

07:10 AM

Minister 'inaccurate' to suggest Afghanistan veteran took life over withdrawal

A minister has said he was "inaccurate" to suggest that at least one army veteran had taken their life in response to the allied withdrawal from Afghanistan.

James Heappey, the armed forces minister, had initially told Sky News that he was aware of "soldiers who served in Afghanistan who have taken their own lives in the last week or so because of the feelings they’ve had over what’s happened".

Questioned over what he had revealed, Mr Heappey confirmed: "It is my understanding in the last few days there have been people who have taken their life - certainly a person who has taken their life - who did so because of their feeling over the consequences of withdrawal.

"That's why the Government, the nation, needs to put our arm round our veterans and tell them how proud we are of what they did."

However, speaking later to the BBC, he said he had received "a number of reports that the thing I was referring to was inaccurate".

Mr Heappey added: "We are looking very, very carefully at whether it is true whether or not someone has taken their life in the last few days."

07:04 AM

Row over social care must not 'become conflict between generations', says minister

The row over how to pay for social care reform must not become a "conflict between generations", a minister has said.

James Heappey, the armed forces minister, told Sky News: "Every single possible fiscal measure has pros and cons

"We should see what cx proposes, recognise this is going to be difficult but avoid this lazy characterisation of young vs old," he added.

He argued that "plenty" of retirees were not sitting on vast stores of wealth and "don't recognise that in their finances at all".

"We must avoid it becoming a conflict between generations, and find a route through that is fair and restores the social contract," he added.

06:18 AM

Tory party grandees join National Insurance tax rise revolt

Plans to raise National Insurance to pay for social care have been criticised by three former Conservative chancellors as Boris Johnson faces a growing backlash over the proposal.

The PM is expected to outline his plan on Monday but is facing growing consternation from within his party over a move that would breach his 2019 election pledge not to raise the tax.

On Sunday, Philip Hammond, Ken Clarke and Norman Lamont added their voices to the disquiet which already includes several cabinet ministers, backbench MPs, business leaders and the Labour party. They said it would unfairly hit young workers, leave wealthier pensioners unscathed and could lead to a voter backlash.

Such is the level of concern around the plan, Mr Johnson is expected to address the powerful 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs in a bid to quell growing rebellion.

06:16 AM

Good Morning

MPs are returning to Westminster today, as their summer break draws to an end.

So Boris Johnson might have hoped to be greeted with better headlines than today's, with widespread criticism of his as-yet-unannounced plan to deal with social care.

Here is today's front page.