LONDON 19th October 2017. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in his office in London as he is interviewed by Mina al-Oraibi, Editor in Chief of The National and London Bureau Chief Damien McElroy.  Stephen Lock for the National
Tony Blair’s intervention in Brussels is an attempt to persuade European leaders that they can help avert Britain’s departure. Stephen Lock for the National

What happens to elder statesmen (and younger premiers) when they leave office?

The sidelining of Robert Mugabe at the age of 93 after 37 years in power in Zimbabwe illustrates a growing problem – what to do with political leaders who will not or cannot depart the scene. Even at his advanced age, and having laid waste to the country's economy and agriculture and destroyed its currency, Mr Mugabe is still not ready to quit. He sees a continuing role as elder statesman.

Mr Mugabe is not alone in the world, and certainly not in Africa where five leaders have been in power for more than 28 years. In Russia, Vladimir Putin has been in power (as president for three terms and for one term as prime minister) for 18 years. He is expected to run for a further six-year term as president in March, bringing the total to 24. What will happen next?

Kremlin strategists are already plotting what kind of role he could have when his current two-term limit as president runs out. Perhaps a collective leadership? We do not know what Mr Putin thinks of this.

What is clear is that Mr Putin's dominance of the political scene has frozen politics in Russia in the last century. The parliamentary "opposition" are holdovers from the 1990s – the pro-Kremlin communist Gennady Zyuganov and the licensed jester Vladimir Zhirinovsky. They are like the mammoths preserved in permafrost that starving political prisoners in the Soviet Gulag would occasionally dig up. At least the mammoths could be eaten, whereas the old opposition is strictly decorative.

In the West the same problem exists but in a different form. With the voters' desire for a new face (or in the absence of young blood, a total outsider such as Donald Trump) the trend is for politicians to get to the top at a relatively young age. The poster-boy for the young and energetic politician is Emmanuel Macron, who reached the French presidency at 39, only to be beaten five months later by Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister who won at 37.

What will Mr Macron do when he falls out of favour, as all democratic politicians do?  The example of Tony Blair is instructive. As a politician of world-class charisma and persuasiveness, Mr Blair bewitched the British public when he came to power at the age of 44 but the terrible consequences of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and other missteps curdled the admiration into distrust.

The Labour party which he led to three election victories pretends he does not exist.  Much of the rest of the country changes channel when he appears of television. But Mr Blair cannot stay away from politics. He has relaunched himself on a personal mission to reverse last year’s referendum decision to leave the European Union.  While almost half the country would dearly love that outcome, he carries so much political baggage that he cannot be the man to lead the campaign except, perhaps, in the event of a national emergency of the scale which brought Winston Churchill back to Downing Street in 1940.

As for Barack Obama – who entered the White House at the age of 47 – what is he to do? It would be a shame for such an erudite man to follow the dignified if uninspiring silence of George W Bush, who has been devoting himself to painting.


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Richard Nixon, who left office in disgrace in 1974, spent the best part of 20 years prompting headlines of a comeback with trips abroad and well regarded speeches on foreign policy. It did not end well. In March 1994, on a trip to Moscow he was angrily snubbed by Boris Yeltsin. He died the following month.

The brutal truth is that a democratic politician will always struggle to escape the media narrative set by his or her opponents and an unforgiving press. David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary who was beaten by his brother Ed in a contest to lead the Labour party, writes that he had to keep silent on British politics after this sibling battle. "Anything I said was construed as a bitter attack on my brother, with the substance of my point obscured by alleged psychodrama," he writes in a new book, Rescue.

Mr Miliband has found a berth in New York, as head of the International Rescue Committee, an 80-year-old charity which helps refugees and displaced people all over the world. Clearly the United States is a place where a politician can make a new life for himself. Delving into the past, Helmut Schmidt, a great German chancellor, also found a suitable berth: after losing power he moved to the editor's chair at Die Zeit, a highbrow weekly publication which eschews the manipulative trickiness of most media.

But these are exceptions. The truth is that there are few good career paths for former leaders. Those that were lauded in power in western countries face contempt if they try to get back in the political game; dictators fear they could face vengeance at the hands of their own people or transnational justice, as in the case of Liberia's Charles Taylor, who resigned under international pressure and is now serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes.

Only one thing is clear: trying to bequeath the presidency to your wife as a means of hanging on to office in your dotage always causes a stink. This was the cause of Mr Mugabe's downfall. The prospect of "Gucci" Grace Mugabe as president brought the armoured cars on to the streets.

This is no academic question. In neighbouring South Africa, Jacob Zuma, the president and leader of the ruling African National Congress, is promoting his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him as party leader and eventually president. She has experience in government and as chair of the African Union, but critics see her candidacy as an attempt by Mr Zuma to stop investigators looking at his allegedly corrupt links with commercial interests. The ANC is to decide in a secret ballot later this month.

Kamindu Mendis bio

Full name: Pasqual Handi Kamindu Dilanka Mendis

Born: September 30, 1998

Age: 20 years and 26 days

Nationality: Sri Lankan

Major teams Sri Lanka's Under 19 team

Batting style: Left-hander

Bowling style: Right-arm off-spin and slow left-arm orthodox (that's right!)

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High fever (40°C/104°F)
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The 10 Questions
  • Is there a God?
  • How did it all begin?
  • What is inside a black hole?
  • Can we predict the future?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • Will we survive on Earth?
  • Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
  • Should we colonise space?
  • Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
  • How do we shape the future?

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates


Date started: February 2017

Founders: Amira Rashad (CEO), Yusuf Saber (CTO), Mahmoud Sayedahmed (adviser), Reda Bouraoui (adviser)

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: E-commerce 

Size: 50 employees

Funding: approximately $6m

Investors: Beco Capital, Enabling Future and Wain in the UAE; China's MSA Capital; 500 Startups; Faith Capital and Savour Ventures in Kuwait


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Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Day 1, Abu Dhabi Test: At a glance

Moment of the day Dimuth Karunaratne had batted with plenty of pluck, and no little skill, in getting to within seven runs of a first-day century. Then, while he ran what he thought was a comfortable single to mid-on, his batting partner Dinesh Chandimal opted to stay at home. The opener was run out by the length of the pitch.

Stat of the day - 1 One six was hit on Day 1. The boundary was only breached 18 times in total over the course of the 90 overs. When it did arrive, the lone six was a thing of beauty, as Niroshan Dickwella effortlessly clipped Mohammed Amir over the square-leg boundary.

The verdict Three wickets down at lunch, on a featherbed wicket having won the toss, and Sri Lanka’s fragile confidence must have been waning. Then Karunaratne and Chandimal's alliance of precisely 100 gave them a foothold in the match. Dickwella’s free-spirited strokeplay meant the Sri Lankans were handily placed at 227 for four at the close.

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz

Director: Kushan Nandy

Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswami

Three stars


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Other promotions
  • Deliveroo will team up with Pineapple Express to offer customers near JLT a special treat: free banana caramel dessert with all orders on January 26
  • Jones the Grocer will have their limited edition Australia Day menu available until the end of the month (January 31)
  • Australian Vet in Abu Dhabi (with locations in Khalifa City A and Reem Island) will have a 15 per cent off all store items (excluding medications) 
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Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

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Famous left-handers

- Marie Curie

- Jimi Hendrix

- Leonardo Di Vinci

- David Bowie

- Paul McCartney

- Albert Einstein

- Jack the Ripper

- Barack Obama

- Helen Keller

- Joan of Arc

Tips for newlyweds to better manage finances

All couples are unique and have to create a financial blueprint that is most suitable for their relationship, says Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial. He offers his top five tips for couples to better manage their finances.

Discuss your assets and debts: When married, it’s important to understand each other’s personal financial situation. It’s necessary to know upfront what each party brings to the table, as debts and assets affect spending habits and joint loan qualifications. Discussing all aspects of their finances as a couple prevents anyone from being blindsided later.

Decide on the financial/saving goals: Spouses should independently list their top goals and share their lists with one another to shape a joint plan. Writing down clear goals will help them determine how much to save each month, how much to put aside for short-term goals, and how they will reach their long-term financial goals.

Set a budget: A budget can keep the couple be mindful of their income and expenses. With a monthly budget, couples will know exactly how much they can spend in a category each month, how much they have to work with and what spending areas need to be evaluated.

Decide who manages what: When it comes to handling finances, it’s a good idea to decide who manages what. For example, one person might take on the day-to-day bills, while the other tackles long-term investments and retirement plans.

Money date nights: Talking about money should be a healthy, ongoing conversation and couples should not wait for something to go wrong. They should set time aside every month to talk about future financial decisions and see the progress they’ve made together towards accomplishing their goals.

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through and


June 3: NZ Provincial Barbarians 7 Lions 13
June 7: Blues 22 Lions 16
June 10: Crusaders 3 Lions 12
June 13: Highlanders 23 Lions 22
June 17: Maori All Blacks 10 Lions 32
June 20: Chiefs 6 Lions 34
June 24: New Zealand 30 Lions 15 (First Test)
June 27: Hurricanes 31 Lions 31
July 1: New Zealand 21 Lions 24 (Second Test)
July 8: New Zealand v Lions (Third Test) - kick-off 11.30am (UAE)


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

yallacompare profile

Date of launch: 2014

Founder: Jon Richards, founder and chief executive; Samer Chebab, co-founder and chief operating officer, and Jonathan Rawlings, co-founder and chief financial officer

Based: Media City, Dubai 

Sector: Financial services

Size: 120 employees

Investors: 2014: $500,000 in a seed round led by Mulverhill Associates; 2015: $3m in Series A funding led by STC Ventures (managed by Iris Capital), Wamda and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority; 2019: $8m in Series B funding with the same investors as Series A along with Precinct Partners, Saned and Argo Ventures (the VC arm of multinational insurer Argo Group)

New process leads to panic among jobseekers

As a UAE-based travel agent who processes tourist visas from the Philippines, Jennifer Pacia Gado is fielding a lot of calls from concerned travellers just now. And they are all asking the same question.  

“My clients are mostly Filipinos, and they [all want to know] about good conduct certificates,” says the 34-year-old Filipina, who has lived in the UAE for five years.

Ms Gado contacted the Philippines Embassy to get more information on the certificate so she can share it with her clients. She says many are worried about the process and associated costs – which could be as high as Dh500 to obtain and attest a good conduct certificate from the Philippines for jobseekers already living in the UAE. 

“They are worried about this because when they arrive here without the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] clearance, it is a hassle because it takes time,” she says.

“They need to go first to the embassy to apply for the application of the NBI clearance. After that they have go to the police station [in the UAE] for the fingerprints. And then they will apply for the special power of attorney so that someone can finish the process in the Philippines. So it is a long process and more expensive if you are doing it from here.”

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