Tony Blair is to fly to Washington armed with the promise of an unprecedented rock star-led mobilisation of public opinion, to urge George Bush not to risk the wrath of Europe by holding out on a deal to lift the debt burdens on Africa.
Downing Street released news of his visit to Washington next Tuesday (June 7) on the day that Bob Geldof announced plans for a gargantuan five-country rock concert and march on Edinburgh on the eve of the G8 summit in Gleneagles.
Live 8’s concerts will include stars from every generation including U2, Sir Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Dido, Elton John, REM, Stereophonics, Joss Stone and Madonna.
Sir Bob persuaded Mr Blair to launch the Commission for Africa report 18 months ago, but the prime minister may now find he is riding a political tiger that he no longer controls.
Launching his plans on Tuesday, 20 years after exhorting a global audience of 1.5 billion to “feed the world” at Live Aid, Geldof said the reprise would give a new generation an historic opportunity to “tilt the world a little bit on its axis in favour of the poor.”
Unveiling the line up for Live 8, he told the billions who will watch globally on television and the Internet: “You don’t just get to watch, you’ve got to do it. The G7 leaders have promised for 30 years to double aid, but when are they going to do it?”
He claimed Africa was now equipped for aid, had thrown off its corrupt tyrants and insisted a deal on debt was achievable at the G8.
The Live 8 concerts which will also take place at a series of historic locations in Rome, Berlin, Paris, Philadelphia and London – will be free to attend, with millions of people expected to apply for the 150,000 Hyde Park tickets from 8am on Monday.
He said the purpose of the concerts was not “for charity, but social Justice.”
He said he hoped it would inspire hundreds of thousands of people to travel by any means to Edinburgh for the week-long summit.
Geldof had been adamant that there was “no point” in repeating the Live Aid concerts that took place in London and Philadelphia 20 years ago but said the U2 frontman Bono and the film-maker Richard Curtis, the Comic Relief founder, had persuaded him to change his mind just four weeks ago.
Mr Blair’s meeting with Mr Bush will be their first since the two leader’s re-election.
The British government is acutely aware that the Bush administration is unenthusiastic about the largely UK Treasury-led agenda to double aid, cancel multilateral debt and lift export subsidies.
The Guardian, June 2, 2005