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Andrew Marr interview with Tony Blair, September 1, 2010

 
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Only one Labour leader has had the keys to Downing Street for more than ten years. Tony Blair enjoyed huge electoral success, but he left having divided the country, a controversial figure. Now, he says he made mistakes. But what, and why?
Mr Blair, it's been almost three years since we've heard from you. It's as if you've left Britain behind, almost. Why the long silence?
It's difficult, when, you know, you stop being Prime Minister. You don't want to come in and then be a back seat driver for your successor. So I wanted to let, you know, Gordon get on with the job. And, also I've been very busy, you know, particularly with the Middle East peace process, but with other things too. So, that's... That's why.
Well, we've an awful lot to talk about, obviously. We're going to be discussing all the controversial stuff, including the Iraq War, later on. But we're just going to start with domestic policy and the story in Britain. Three huge election victories, a sustained economic boom, new schools, better hospitals, new equality laws. But Tony Blair was thwarted at every turn, he now says, by colleagues at the heart of Government with reservations about his commitment to change. Gordon's people were more or less perpetually disesing me, and it would now be, he concedes, a continual fight with Gordon. Regrets? Much to talk about overseas, but on the home front too, the fox hunting ban, his freedom of information legislation, but while Tony Blair's thirst for change and commitment to New Labour hardened, he was increasingly parting company with many in the movement that had thrust him to power. Mr Blair, let's start with one of those people you were perhaps leaving behind. A man you may be familiar with. Do you think Gordon Brown could ever have won a fourth election victory? Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, what I explained in the book is that the relationship with Gordon was very, very difficult. It was also very close. And even though towards the end, I think, frankly, it was hard, going on impossible, for a large part of the time we were in Government, he was an immense source of strength. His contribution to the successes of the Labour Government, all the investment you talked about was clear. And you think he could have won a fourth election victory, nothing to do with personality, and not being a good communicator or being grumpy - you felt he had the wrong policies by the time he went to the country? I always took the view that if we departed a millimetre from New Labour, we were going to be in trouble. I actually think, although Gordon - obviously, in some ways his personality's less attuned to the kind of 21st century politics and campaigning. On the other hand, I think you can exaggerate all this. I actually think, as a political leader today, if the public thinks your heart's in the right place, and you're committed and determined, and he was all of those things, then I think yes, he could have won. So what went wrong? I think what went wrong was we departed from the New Labour program, in my view. What we needed to do in 2007, was we needed to renew New Labour with vigour, take it to the next stage, be the party that reformed welfare, public services, carried on deepening those reforms. And, you know, I think we somewhat backed away on them and that was the reason, frankly. Let's go back to the beginning of the relationship with Gordon Brown. I mean you describe your - "It was like lovers," you said. It was as intense and close as that? Yeah, I mean, let me sort of qualify that! I mean it was - and it was a really close political friendship. And one of the reasons why - because people often say to me, "Look, you know, by the end you must have, you know, really disliked him," and so on. All the way through, there was a residual respect, I think, on both our parts. Sometimes that wasn't always felt by the teams around us because they, you know, inevitably get angry. But Gordon is somebody of enormous talent, ability, commitment. And, in the end, his contribution was enormous. I mean he was a huge solid figure for the Government. And yet after the first very intense friendship between yourselves, where you were trying to forge what would be New Labour, a sense of destiny almost came across you, I think, about the fact that it was going to be you who would lead the Labour Party. You felt that neither Neil Kinnock, nor John Smith, would lead the Labour Party to victory. You recount an extraordinary moment, I think, in Paris, when John Smith is still leader of the Labour Party? Yes, I just think - it was just one of these strange things. I mean, I - this was about a month before John died. And I remember just waking, waking up that morning with some sort of strange certainty. I mean, it's not a premonition or anything weird like that, I mean, just a sense that - I thought I was - yes, that it was going to fall... That you thought he was going to die? ..it was going to fall to me. Yes. And so we come to the famous negotiation between yourself and Gordon Brown about who is going to stand for the Labour leadership. Everyone has described this as "The Granita Deal," after the Islington Restaurant. It wasn't "The Granita Deal," was it? No. But I mean, it isn't, you know... It happened everywhere but Granita? Yeah. So, what was the nature of the agreement between you? Well, it was more really an understanding. One could go forward. In the end, I think we both felt probably I had the better claim. That I could reach parts of - particularly middle England, possibly Gordon couldn't. And, you know, I always anticipated that Gordon would be my successor. And so... ..the conversation in a sense was on that basis. But it... Was it explicit? It was explicit in the sense that I was always, you know, saying, "Look, I don't... And I meant this incidentally - "I don't want to do this forever. You know, you are the obvious person to succeed me. I mean, who can tell what the future holds. But let's work together in the meantime. But do you think you - in retrospect he - you gave him too much at that point? No, I don't think so, because I think he was then, and actually was all the way through, the obvious person to carry on. And the difficulty is, when he was my number two, in a sense, or, you know, the Chancellor to my Prime Minister, people maybe overestimated his capacity to be Prime Minister. I think the last three years when he was Prime Minister people maybe underestimated his strengths. Before you were forced out you'd had another agreement with him, or another discussion with him, sitting with John Prescott at Admiralty House, where the two of you had, as I understand it, been pretty much alone and had eyeballed each other and talked about the next few years. What happened then? That was far more explicit. I was never desperate to do the job, you know, never desperate to stay in it. I know that sounds odd but... Really? Yeah. Look, people never believe me when I say that, maybe in the sense Gordon didn't believe me when I said that, but I never was and I was very happy to go after two terms, provided that the programme I thought that was intrinsic and essential to New Labour success and to carrying on for the Labour Party being a party of Government, capable of governing on a significantly continual basis, provided that programme was kept to. So you told him specifically that you would hand over before a third election if he backed you? Yeah, if it was clear that we were working on the same agenda together, and the problem was, in the end, we weren't really. And when did that become clear to you? It was - it was really pretty much mid-2004 when we were working on new stages of public service reform, the academy programme, foundation hospitals taken to the next level, new changes in the Health Service, identity cards, new law and order programme. Then we had the welfare proposals, the pension proposals. It just became clear we weren't on the... You could see it from Gordon Brown's point of view. He thought you were going and then the so and so wouldn't go. Yeah. No, I - I totally understand that. But I'm afraid, from my point of view, it was never who occupied the position, but what we did with it and if we were going to continue that reform programme I was absolutely up for his succeeding me and taking over. He clearly feels that you broke a specific agreement with him. Of course, and I understand that, and I feel from the opposite point of view that in the end it became clear we didn't share the same agenda. Was that the moment when relations really broke down? Well, it was obviously a lot more difficult after then. How bad was it? At times it was bad, but it - people often say to me well, why didn't you just get rid of him? And, as I used to say to people, that's why I'm the leader who takes the decisions and you're not. The answer is that in the end his contribution was still immensely important and vital and, in the end, even on the reform programme he put a brake on at points, he didn't stop it. But also he would have been too dangerous outside, - in a sense New Labour, even at its height, was too fragile to lose him. Well, it's an interesting question that. I mean, actually in the end, if I had thought I literally couldn't get the reform programme through, I would have gone rather than stayed. Well, let's turn to the core of the domestic reform agenda, which is changing the public services. It seems to many people that in that first Labour Government there was a certain naivety about it, that you would come in, you were well meaning, you were pro-public services and, therefore, they would get better. You come in as Prime Minister; people think right, you're Prime Minister, you've got a fashioned manifesto, you know, that you just get on and implement it. The truth is you learn. And, you know, the big lesson that I learnt in that first term was that actually today's politics is a lot more to do with structural change, project management and delivery, than it is to do with ideological fixations, left versus right, or the notion that you can, by edict from Government, change things. Because you then went on to a period which New Labour is still really known for, where it was very centralised, it was top down, it was targets, it was directives, it was all being done from the centre. And you came to believe that that was actually - the big state, if you like, was part of the problem, not part of the solution. Yeah, I - that should be qualified in the sense that I actually do believe you need targets and I think it's a big mistake simply to get rid of those. But, you know, I definitely came to the concept of the state as a strategic empowering state, fashioning structures that put the power in the hands of people. So, an odd thing, when you were personally probably at your politically most powerful early on, you didn't have the clear agenda. By the time you had the clear agenda, free schools, or self-running schools, merging private and public and hospitals and so on, you no longer had the power. Well, I had the power, because I used it... Not quite. And we did it, but I didn't have the popularity no, for sure, and therefore, in one sense, yeah, that's one of the ironies of politics. Let's talk about some of the other many issues that crowded round you in power. I spent an awful lot of my time, I recall, as political editor, standing outside the place behind us talking about the fox hunting ban, which you were ramming through. Well, I was hardly ramming it through. I think that would be... Well, the Government was. The Government was pushing it quite hard. The PLP were very much in favour. Look, in the end, I mean, I'm not particularly in favour of fox hunting myself, but, in the end I came to the conclusion that it was a mistake to have gone down this path. But, I mean, a lot of people, at the time, felt you didn't quite get the countryside, that the nature of country life, the nature of fox hunting, the way these communities worked, you didn't understand as Prime Minister. Yeah, and I think there is some truth in that actually and I reproach myself for that, in a way. It was only when I got into the thing in a lot - in the detail, frankly, I should have done before, that I started to understand that this was more complicated than a bunch of toffs running around hunting foxes. Now we then came to a position, which in a sense is a rather masterful or unmasterful British compromise, on it and it got through, but I was... The fox hunting is illegal but carries on. It's not my finest hour in policy-making, but there it is. Another area which was perhaps more complicated, you felt, in retrospect, was freedom of information. Yeah, I know, what was definitely not - not a good idea. Why was it not a good idea? Because putting up - freedom of information in the sense of, you know, you let people look at their records and that type of thing, I mean, that I'm all in favour of. That's fine. Freedom of information when it ends up making it hard for people at the heart of Government, at the top of Government, to have confidential conversations that they commit to writing, I think, that's not a good idea. Yes. You say in the book, "I feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop! I quake at the imbecility of it." Yeah, well, pretty much. I mean, it's just not a good idea because you've got to be able to have conversations with people that are frank and if the truth of the matter is, particularly with the media environment we have, if people feel that their views written down are then going to be published, they're gonna be incredibly careful about how they express themselves. And it isn't sensible for Government. And, you know, look, there it is, it's... A lot of journalists, a lot of lawyers, a lot of people on the left will be aghast to hear you say this. Yeah, I know. Well, I'm sorry about that, but they've got lots of reasons to be aghast at me so... So, let's add another one. One of the words that became attached to new Labour was "sleaze." Endless scandals of different kinds. In opposition, you and the New Labour team pretty much bayoneted and stabbed to death members of John Major's Government and Conservatives for the same sort of thing. That was why, wasn't it, that you got stung yourself? In part, yes, I think it was, in the end that was a mistake really. You shouldn't have done it? I mean, I...felt uncomfortable doing it. The trouble is it's very - look, you... Here's the thing. It's very hard when - you know, if there is a huge attack being launched on the Government and you're the opposition and you're trying to get the Government out. But there are certain bandwagons it's best to say no to.

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Do you think you were naive about big money coming in, the big donors, particularly early on? No, one of the things to me was always this: I mean my close friends are not particularly wealthy people at all. But I had a huge belief that the Labour Party had to be a party that was open to successful people, right? And it's not a question of being sort of dazzled by, you know, big money and all the rest of it, but the fact that we could get business on support, major successful people coming out and saying, you know, Labour, we can support this. Very often they want something back. Yeah, but actually you know, I had far more trouble, if I may say this to you, with union leaders demanding something back, than I ever did with high value donors. Let me ask you about spin, by which people mean talking, you know, to one group of people saying one thing, another group saying another thing, and also the what felt like the bullying, frankly, of journalists. Your relationship with the media became disastrous. Wasn't that partly, if not your fault personally, the fault of the operation? That's not the reason my position with the media became difficult. I mean, look, I always had a constituency in the country rather than the media. And the reason I got into trouble with the media was not to do with spin. It's because they didn't like me. Or like the policies I stood for. But here's the thing: you have a relationship with the country, or the electorate. It's Tony Blair, the people. But nobody can have that relationship. It's the party or the media. There's always a mediating thing. So if you're not really seen as the Labour Party's one of us, and you're not seen by the media as one of - you can't have that relationship. Well, yeah. It's a lot tougher. Yeah. But you should never underestimate the people. I mean one of the funny things about this is, is even though obviously a lot of people for various reasons lost faith in me, at points, I actually never lost faith in the British people. And in a way, you know, with the media. It's the way it is, so there's no point in complaining about it. So we've talked now about some of the issues inside Britain. Let's turn now to some of the highs and lows outside Britain. Let's start with something which won you probably more widespread acclaim than anything else as Prime Minister - the Northern Ireland peace process. Tell me about Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to start with because these were people still seen by many as cold-blooded killers who shouldn't be inside any political process. You came quite to admire, even like them. I did in the end, yes. When it came it fighting for peace, the deal that was struck in Northern Ireland won him plaudits worldwide. Personally involved, Tony Blair brokered the agreement eluded a a generations of politicians. But for many people, Tony Blair will be remembered, defined by the Iraq war. Many turned against him forever, because of it. After successfully intervening in Kosovo and later, Sierra Leone, he announced a new principle. It was acceptable to bring down despotic regimes, even if they weren't an immediate threat. He formed a deep partnership with George W Bush, following the 9/11 attacks that changed the world. He went to war in Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although by then, he didn't. The controversy over the intelligence reports, post-war planning and the legal basis of the war, have continued unabated. He now says he thinks about the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan every day of his life. It was, he says, more bloody, more awful, more terrifying than anyone could have imagined. So, if he'd known then what he knows now, would his choices have been different? Let's start with something which you you had more widespread acclaim than anything else, northerly, the peace process, tell me about Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. These are people still seen by many as killers. And shouldn't be involved in any peace process. You came to admire them, even like them. I I did, yes. I think they were big politicians in anyone's language, if you like. I think they would have done well in any set of political circumstances. And I remember the very first meeting that we had in Downing Street when they came into the room in Downing Street and they were saying, well this is where Michael Collins had sat with Lord George and then Mo Mowlam, who was there at the time, sort of broke up this rather reflective conversation by saying, "Yes, and that's the window that you fired the rockets in at John Major's Government." Mm. But it was a very strange set of personal relationships that I came to have with them, with David Trimble, with Ian Paisley and those personal relationships were actually very important in creating the confidence that I was basically a good faith go-between. Because what happens in these situations, and you see this with the Israeli-Palestinian issue today, is that people lose all faith in the other's good faith. And you say that, 'they were manipulative but so was I'. I mean, everybody was playing a game here. You had to, at a certain stage in this, particularly at the beginning - creative ambiguity was our friend. And we also had to be, yeah, pretty flyer points to try and bring people... You pushed the truth beyond breaking point. Um, occasionally. From time to time. Occasionally it was stretched pretty far, yeah. And it was always, you know, it was always quite a difficult, as it were, moral dilemma that, because you're doing it in a good cause. On the other hand, you've got to be obviously careful, and careful in any event of your relationships. And you look at Northern Ireland now, of course, some of the moderate parties that you were engaging in were pretty much wiped out by the consequences of the process as the more hard-line parties came together. Do you think Northern Ireland now is secure in its peacefulness? I hope so. I mean the honest answer is you you can never be sure and you've got to carry on working on it. Two early very significant military interventions in your time as Prime Minister - Sierra Leone and Kosovo. How crucial were they to your growing sense of yourself as Prime Minister and your power in the world? Kosovo very much so. It was the first occasion of which I could actually feel that I was putting my job on the line in a way. But I believed absolutely clearly that to have ethnic cleansing going on, on the doorstep of Europe, and not to act would be disastrous. After those two interventions you made what in retrospect seems a very significant speech in Chicago, in 1999, where you developed a new doctrine about dictatorships. My view is that the essential characteristic of today's world is its interdependence. And I don't think a problem, a significant problem ever remains located in one part of the world. It now spreads very, very quickly. And therefore, I also think that there can be circumstances in which it is legitimate to intervene, even in another country's affairs, where the oppression of a people is so cruel, where you can't simply say well unless our national interest is directly threatened in a very specific way, we're not going to have anything... So you can topple tyrants because they're tyrants, not because they immediately threaten other people? In very limited circumstances though. Right. I mean, I don't think... Look, take Mugabe as - which is a thing people often say - as someone who would be good if he weren't in power any more? Absolutely. Can you start engaging military action to topple him? No. So, you've got to be extremely careful of this, and out of this incidentally came the United Nations change, the so-called responsibility to protect, which is now part of the UN rules. So then comes 9/11. Did you, pretty instantly think, the world is now at war in a new way? Yes, I was very, very clear that for me this changed everything and the reason for that was very simple, and it explains all the things that happened from then. The point that impacted on me more than anything else was that here were 3,000 totally innocent people killed in a single day in New York. But if they could have killed 300,000, they would have killed them. And so, in my view what this did was completely alter the calculus of risk. From then on you could not take chances on this issue, in my view. And it put you shoulder-to-shoulder, it soldered you with an American President many people in this country, above all in your own party, loathed - George W Bush. It put me absolutely shoulder- to-shoulder with the American people and George Bush was the American President and we formed a close and strong alliance after that point. And my view, again, was not that we had to do this for America, but we had to do it for Britain. Iraq becomes part of the equation because it's on the American agenda. To go into Iraq requires legal cover and it requires, therefore, weapons of mass destruction to be believed to be there. We now go into the, the hardest bit of all of this I suppose, which is, the suspicion which remains today, that you wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein, above all because he was a bad man. And that the weapons of mass destruction, you knew - there was patchy evidence, you knew they may be there, you thought they might be there, but actually it was an excuse for something else. Yeah, and let me just state absolutely clearly and unequivocally, the reason for toppling him was his breach of United Nations' resolutions over WMD right? Now when people say - well, so the regime was irrelevant? Of course it's not irrelevant. This distinction is a very binary distinction. You said you would have gone after him even if he hadn't had WMD. No but what I mean by this is, that obviously if you knew now what you, you knew then what you know now, then of course the WMD case is that he was in breach of the United Nations' resolutions, right? But he didn't have WMD? No, but here is the thing that is really, really important. When you then go and look at the Iraq Survey Group report - which is the report that was then done after Saddam was toppled and which includes, in its final report in 2004, interviews with Saddam, with his leading people, with the scientists and so on - what he'd decided to do was to put his programme into abeyance, to get rid of the sanctions and then reconstitute the programme, probably with nuclear capability and certainly with chemical weapons capability. That's a who knows one day, maybe, thing. It's not, no, no, no, no, no it's not. What, what we were told. We were told, by you, that there were weapons that could be used, within 45 minutes. I vividly remember being shown the maps with the circles and British bases in Cyprus, and a great drumbeat towards war, that in retrospect was wrong. And I've always apologised for the fact that the intelligence was wrong. What I can't apologise for, however, is the decision we took. Which we took, incidentally, based on intelligence, at the time. So all I'm saying to you is, you know - this has been gone over many, many times. The intelligence picture was clear. We acted on it. And all I'm saying to you about the Iraq Survey Group report is it isn't correct to say that, that report finds, well maybe he might of at one point. No, what they actually find is that he retained the technical know how, he retained the scientists able to develop this. That there were laboratories that he concealed from the UN inspectors that were there ready for use. In other words, I don't accept, even today, that there isn't a strong case that he was in breach of the United Nations resolutions. He was. And yet, at the time, Hans Blix, the inspector, wanted more time, and I'll put it to you that by that stage we were being driven, above all by the military timetable, that the troops were on the ground, they were waiting to go. And in Chicago, in that speech you said all diplomatic roads have to be gone down before we can do this kind of thing, they hadn't been. But they had been, because in November 2002 we'd got a fresh United Nations' resolution, that had given them a final chance to come into compliance. Did we in the end contemplate that it would be as long and bloody as it was? No. But again the reason why it was long and bloody was not through toppling Saddam, we did that in two months. And by the middle of 2003, incidentally, British forces were there in Iraq, with full United Nations' authority, to stabilise the country which was then destabilised by the same external forces which we face in Afghanistan today, and in other parts of the world. I want to come on specifically to that in a moment, just before we do - these last few weeks and days before the war - which caused your reputation so much damage and caused so much anger in the country - one of the other great issues was the legal cover for war. Now the Foreign Office lawyers were jumping up and down saying - we don't have legal cover without another resolution. One of them, Elizabeth Wilmshurst - they've spoken at the Chilcot Inquiry, afterwards. And yet it's only three days before the war happens that you go to your Attorney General and ask for a final decision. That's a heck of a lot on the shoulders of one man. He knows that if he gives you, as it were the wrong answer, that could be the end of your Prime Ministership. It could be the end of the Labour Government. It could be the end of the intervention. It could be the end of the Alliance. It's a heck of thing to ask your Attorney General. But that's not actually what happened. What happened was over a period of months there was huge debat. Not just within our Government, within different governments, about the legal justification. And incidentally legal justification was quite clear. The resolution in November 2002, it said there's a final chance for Saddam to comply and he must comply immediately. No, the Foreign Office lawyers didn't think it was clear. But other lawyers did think it was clear. You can always find a lawyer to back you up, you know that. I know, but you can say that about either side. The fact is there was a disagreement. Yes. It was resolved in the end, and the Attorney General's advice is given, and he's given the account on many, many occasions as to why he came to this view. The whole point about it was this, and this is the thing to understand why I did this because... But you didn't come to the House of Commons and say - it's finely balanced but I think we have legal justification. You said - we've definitely got legal justification. No, I came, we said, completely accurately - the Attorney General had said that the war was legally authorised, which it was. But the important thing is to stress, why. You know one of the things people often ask me, who are more friendly to me, okay, will say to me - why did you take such a momentous decision which you knew was extremely unpopular in many quarters and so on and so forth? And the answer to that is because I believed strongly then, and now, you don't take a risk on this issue anymore. And that's the reason why, for example on Iran today I am in exactly the same position. I would never, not on my watch if I had anything to do with it, allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons capability. Going back to the legal issue, you didn't even tell the Cabinet about the nuances and the problems with the legal problem. The Attorney General himself came to Cabinet. There was a discussion at Cabinet about it.
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Look, again one of the myths, because what happens in a situation like this is that people always want to look for a conspiracy or they want to look for some - you know, it was about oil or it was to do with some other American strategic - Well, I tell you I - It was for the reasons that we gave. Well, you say that but... And we had the Cabinet involved every part of the way. In the end, it was a decision. Now, if I'd taken the opposite decision and let's supposing America had then decided not to continue, Saddam would still be in power today, with his two sons. Now, you can have an argument about that. I'm not saying that I have to persuade you. I'm simply saying it is at least arguable, given the hundreds of thousands that died under Saddam, given the wars that he started, given what he did, given the fact that he developed WMD and used them even against his own people. Thousands dying in a single day in an attack on a Kurdish village. It is at least arguable that the world is better off without him than with him. The vote in the House of Commons and the reporting of the situation, of which I was part, I can vividly remember being shown the dossier and the 45-minute claim is here, the map is here. Andrew, let's just deal with the 45-minute claim. Go out there and tell people. Well, it was, you know, it was in the dossier. It was in your foreword. Yes, but it was then never - I think we ended up with the situation in which of the thousands of written questions it was twice asked about. In the thousands of oral questions they never asked - Because everyone assumed it was true. No. The reason I'm banging on about this is that it's same atmosphere, the same narrative which allows the current deputy prime minister to stand up in the House of Commons over there and say it was an illegal war. Yeah, but you see in the end, I mean... And lots of people agree with him. Well, this debate will go on. My only point, because I'm not gonna persuade you or you me, or I mean or the viewer who disagrees with the decision. The reason I do this is just so that people understand there is another point of view and all I say to people is keep an open mind about it. Because we are about to face, in respect of Iran, a very similar type of decision. And I want to come on to that later on, absolutely. Before the war happened a lot of people, I mean, not least John Major and many other people were saying in public, and in private, Iraq is a dangerous, fissile, complicated country. It has Iran squatting on the border and you knew also that Al-Qaeda were looking for a new battlefield. Should not the planning have been much better? What very nearly tipped Iraq into the abyss, and only the surge basically and the work that was being done by our Special Forces, amongst others, saved us from, was the external involvement of Al-Qaeda and of Iran. Now, that was not something that was foreseen. Well, what about, you know, the.. And the fact is... De-Baathification. What about the civil society? What about the - I mean, there was an implosion, particularly in the north and around Baghdad? There was, but the position would have been, and could have been stabilised, but for the external interference. You kick the door down and go into somebody else's country, you have an absolute responsibility then for security and life in that country afterwards. 100,000 plus people certainly died because of that, some people say more. What do you say to all of those people who just simply think that the blood sacrifice, the six-year carnage, was too much? Given that Saddam didn't have WMD at the time, that it was too much, it wasn't worth it. What I say to them is that if you look at what happened under Saddam there was also carnage. There were hundreds of thousands of people who died under Saddam. So, if you go to Iraq today and you talk to people yes, there will be a lot of people who will say what you've just said, but there will be many, many others who will say.. As one Iraqi said to me, are you saying we've got a choice of rule by Saddam or rule by terror but we can't have what you want? You put the case for it not being worth it and then you quote the Iraqi, but you never yourself quite come to a definitive view. No, my definitive view in the end is that I believe we were right to remove Saddam. And if you knew then what you know now about the consequences of it, would you do it again? No, as I've always said to people I still believe it was the right decision. Now all I say to.. But you must have regrets about the way it happened? Look, you, of course..- The way it was done. You cannot possibly not feel the most immense sadness about the lives lost, not just our own soldiers but the ordinary civilians. The point that I make, however, is if we'd left Saddam there, we also have had a problem. So, all I say to people is it was a really difficult choice this.. So you'd do it again? And I personally believe it was the right decision, but I totally understand why people take the opposite point of view. All I ask about this is that there is an understanding, both of the complexity of the decision and not a sense in which.. But had you taken the opposite decision, or allowed America to go on its own, said we're gonna stay out, not merely incidentally of the invasion, but of the aftermath as well, and of the coalition of some 30 countries that supported America in that if we'd stayed out of that, or if America hadn't acted and Saddam was still there, there would also have been consequences. And, in my view, it is at least arguable that Saddam with the technical know-how, with the oil money - because sanctions would have been lifted, there would have - he would have had massive amounts of resource. He would have had, as the Iraqi Survey Group find, the desire to reconstitute his WMD programme. And my view is he would have been a competitor in extremism to Iran today. At the Chilcot Inquiry you were asked to say sorry. If there was anything you'd like to apologise for or say sorry - what I was gonna ask you is - I mean, we've been talking, it's an interview, but to all the people looking, watching, who still feel very angry and upset about this, is there anything further that you want to say to them? Well, how - look how can you not feel sorry about people who have died? I mean, you would be inhuman if you didn't think that. But when I'm asked whether I regret the decision, you know, I have to say I take responsibility for it, but I can't regret the decision and that's because if I were to say that to you, I mean, I wouldn't be saying what I think. You see, the thing about this issue is it's still going on today. There is not a single part of the Middle East that is not touched by exactly the same problem we have in Iraq and in Afghanistan today. And my view is that the West has got to understand this is a generation-long struggle and we've gotta be in it. What did you feel, during those weeks after the war, when the WMD didn't turn up? This is a question that we were constantly asking people, of course, and indeed we were - one of the things that makes the notion that we - Was it ghastly to think that we went to war and they're not there? Well, look, it was the - casus belli was the WMD programme so, of course, you're constantly asking and indeed searching, so we did. Afghanistan, which we haven't touched at all. Another war. Another piece of nation building. Now in trouble. We're talking about an exit route and all the rest of it. Doesn't that show a deep flaw in, as it were, the Chicago Doctrine, which is that the West does not have the staying power, if you like, the readiness to absorb casualties and the vast amount of money required to build new nations where there have been failed states in the past? Well, that's the - I think the fundamental question, that it's a combination of hard and soft power that we need. Are you worried about what's happening in Afghanistan now with, you know, dates set for withdrawal, Hamid Karzai saying that we're playing into the Taliban's hands? Well, the key thing is to withdraw based on the job being done. Now, I think it's perfectly sensible to set out plans for troop draw-down provided it's geared to.. But the job hasn't been done, has it? Well, we're not actually withdrawing them yet, so the idea is obviously to make a big push forward. You've mentioned already Iran. Yeah. There is an enormous choice to be made about Iran. Iran is a more developed, more formidable, more populous and certainly better armed country than Saddam's Iraq ever was. Are you actually saying that we should threaten them militarily if they are determined to develop nuclear weapons? I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons capability. But what can we do about it? And, I think we've got to be prepared to confront them.. Militarily? If necessarily militarily. Militarily? If necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons and they need to get that message loud and clear. After 9/11, you thought there was a sort of world war between Islamism and the West, however we define it. Well. This extremist strain with Islam, yeah. You know, this is - it's a global phenomenon and the sooner we understand that and deal with it and recognise, and this is the.. And has the West got what it takes? Well, I hope so, but it's got to recover its confidence in itself and it's got to realise - Partly so badly knocked over Iraq, of course. Well, but it shouldn't lose its confidence over that. The fact is the reason why it's been tough in Iraq is because people are driving car bombs into crowded markets and trying to kill the first 20,30, 40, 50 people they see. That is evil and wrong and we should be standing up against it and fighting it. We shouldn't be sitting there saying, well maybe these people are just like that and therefore we should let them get on with it. And, similarly in Afghanistan, where there were attacks going on during the elections, people who were trying to get female candidates elected in Afghanistan and Kabul, same thing going on. We have to finish that job. The West has to finish that job before we pull out, or disaster. Well, we have to finish the job, yeah, for sure. Look what are - the Taliban, just a few days back, they're gonna stone a couple to death because they're in love. I mean what - you can't compromise with that. You've gotta take it on. So we have a moral obligation, in our part of the world, to change that society? We actually have a reason of self-interest. I mean there is a - obviously, you can't see some of the things they do, like executing teachers for teaching girls, and not feel a sense of moral compulsion, but that's not actually the principle reason. It's a self-interested reason. This movement is still there. It is, I'm afraid, still strong. It has a narrative that reaches into a far larger part of the population that is to do with the West and so on, and you've gotta confront it. But isn't it partly still strong because of the nature of our response, because we went in so heavy, we went in so hard? That's the debate, Andrew. That is absolutely the heart of the heart of the debate. And the West's gotta resolve this debate. Is the reason why they're like that because of us, or is it actually because of them? Now, my view in the end is we should stop being in a situation where we think we've caused this. We haven't caused this. If you're a Muslim in this country, in Britain, you've got greater freedom than many Muslims in Muslim countries. I mean, it's nonsense. I know it's difficult, it'll take a long time but if we in Europe decide the pain is too great to stand alongside America, that's fine. But we'll find, in the end, we're obliged to deal with it at a later time and in an even more difficult and acute way. And if Iran ends up with a nuclear weapon, do not be under any doubt at all that will change the entire balance of power in the most troubled region of the world. Tony Blair, we've talked vehemently about the world outside Britain, we're going to return to the here and now and to you yourself in the final section of the interview. Tony Blair's journey was a personal and political one. He now says he was terified at every Prime Minister's questions. He owns up to cowardise in his early years as Prime Minister and describes himself as manipulative. He dreamt of leaving office early with his reputation and soul in tact, still a friendly face in a friendly country. But as the attacks on him continued, he hardened until he says he felt armoured to float above the rable tearing at his limbs. Publicly loyal to his successor in Number 10, he studiously avoided comments that would undermine his old rival. As the coalition swept into Downing Street this year, no word from Tony Blair about his disappointment or indeed, what it would take to dislodge the new political masters. Now he travels the world, making money and working on issues of faith, Middle East peace-making and African governance. So what kind of man with what kind of politics has Tony Blair become? Let me start this section by asking about the economy during your time as Prime Minister.It seemed to many people as if in a sense you'd subcontracted economic policy to the Treasury and to Gordon Brown. Was it not simply a long bubble based on excessively easy rates of interest, a housing boom, people maxing out their credit cards and indeed Government borrowing? First of all, I most certainly did not subcontract economic policy. The macro-economic policy was very much on the lines that I - not merely was happy with, but was insisting upon. And no, I think what happened with the UK is what happened with a lot of other countries. We actually ended up with a cycle that was not as benign as we thought. However, it was still a strong economy and we had ten years of pretty much uninterrupted prosperity. Now we were affected. Look, everybody was affected when the global financial crisis occurred. I think what I would say is, and this is where I began this conversation about the fundamental savings review which I wanted to implement after 2005, I think that was the time we should probably have taken a tougher fiscal position than we
1946:45 ***** Out of transmission


1946:45 ***** Logging enabled: on air; not practising.
Why didn't you get a grip of it back in 2005, when you were starting to worry that we were spending too much. $$ YELLOW Well there was a... I mean, again-- I mean, I'm not wrong there, we were spending too much in your view. $$ YELLOW I very much took the view in the 2005 election and straight afterwards that - and this wasn't about predicting the financial crisis incidentally, because I didn't - but it was about thinking we'd reached the limit of public spending and we now had to drive value through our public services, and therefore I wanted to, and we did create this mechanism called the fundamental savings review, I think this was probably where... $$$WHITE But you couldn't make it happen? That's the question. The problem was with people bought this idea that what we required was a traditional kensian package that the state was pack in fashion and I think it is a lot more complicated. So we were spending too much at that point in your view. Well I think. I mean, I would, I think I would take a different way out of the economic crisis and I think in the end, your the right way to deal with this is to recognise that though the state has to come in to stabilise the economy, it's not the state or Government that is going to bring us back to high levels of growth and even with the financial sector, I am a big advocate of global supervision, tracking these new financial instruments. I'm not a fan of regulation that is too heavy that is going to flatten our financial system. I think that will be a big mistake and we will end up with a situation where the banks, having been too adventure Russ, become too risk adverse. A A lot of people will say, wells a absolutely clear, your vision is of a conservative politician and your juern I from somebody who thought it was a conservative politician to actually somebody who is not. I'm not a conservative. I'm a progressive. I think some is politics is right verses left and some is right verses wrong. I actually think there are elements. I'm a progressive politician. We introduced the minimum wage, we introduced equality for gay people and a massive programme of devolution and restoring power to the people. We put a huge amount in for the poorest pensioners and families. You go to any inner-city estate near here and you will see. I'm listening to this and I'm thinking David Cameron would tick every one of these boxes. Why we should we then say we are like him, rather than he is trying to get on our territory. We used to joke about him being the heir to Blair, he said it and then regretted. Maybe if you look at the detailed policies, maybe that's what it is. I'm not sufficiently abreast of their policies to comment. But progressive politicians should get used to new politics. You look at the emerging market economies who are starting to develop their middle class and therefore they are having to develop their welfare and public services. They are going through a partnership between the individual and government and they are going for public services that are far more a mixture of private and public and far more individual choice and so on. This is the way of the world. Get yourself on the wrong side of that argument and you are on the wrong side of history. Is your old party about to get on the wrong side, with his leadership? Who would you back? I'm not going to. It is fairly obvious but for some reason, you have not said it. It maybe fairly obvious and I'm not saying it isn't. I still have a huge loyalty, administration admiration and love for the Labour Party and I want to see it do well. I want it seat leader - even if it is Dianne, they will have my 100% support and help. It is when you were creating new Labour and had your disappointments with Gordon Brown, it was often said it was like two brothers fighting. Now we do have two brothers fighting, one taking a more Blair position and one perhaps a more left position. All I can speak about is what I think and incidentally just to say about David, anybody who knows him, knows he is very much his own man. I think that for me the thing with the Labour Party is, always be at the cutting edge of the future. That means on public services and welfare. You cannot run them in 2010 as if you were still in 1950. And the question for the Labour Party is - do you buck the historical trend, which has always been, you lose an election and then you go off and decide to lose a few more. And this is the crossroads moment? This is a very, very interesting period of politics because we live in an era of low predictibility and anything could happen. You know, if you'd said a few years back, you'd have a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, you would have been scratching your head at that one, certainly. What do you make of them? Too early to tell. But the one thing I'm absolutely sure of is that Labour has to go right back in contention, because the most important thing for the Labour Party to realise is it can win the next election. You don't have to go with the historical trend. But the Tory Party is the party with options at the moment. Right. Because they can govern with the Lib Dems and succeed on that basis and then say - we've broadened out, or they can ditch them. So, you know, they are the one with the options, and we've got to - if we are smart about it and go right back into contention, then we'll give them a run for their money. Let's talk a little bit about what this journey, what this period of power did to you. I quoted at the beginning this feeling that you had, sort of half way through, that you'd like to get out, still smiling, the country still smiling back, listened to, not loathed. It didn't happen, but what was the effect on you as a human being of all of this? Look, I started as one sort of leader and ended as another. I don't think I have changed as a human being incidentally at all. I started trying it please all the people all of the time. We had been 18 years in opposition, it is not unnatural. You want to try to take the Labour Party back to power and start with that view. But as I wept on, I realised you can't please all of the people all of the time. By the end of it, I was wondering whether I was pleasing any of them any of the time. But it was a sort of view I had, that ultimately, your job is to have the courage to do what you think is right and the rest is up to them. Yet, you know, out there you are loathed by many people. Including many people who once sort of adored you. Yeah. I mean get this in perspective. Yes, there will be people who do, that but as I do say, I did win three elections, rather than lose them. I would remind you, when I actually left office we were in fact, just about neck-and-neck with the Tories, actually. But for three years people haven't heard my voice. I come back to why? Because it was impossible and it's very hard for me, still. I don't want to cause trouble for David Cameron, actually, quite apart from not wanting to... Why not? Because I know what it is like to do that job and it's really difficult and the last thing you need is someone who used to do the job, you know, popping up. Obviously I'll go out and help the Labour Party and so on, but popping up and saying - oh, he's not doing this or that right. I know how difficult it is, and I have a sympathy and respect for anyone who is doing it. And what about the specific legacy? The really bitter and toxic legacy of the Iraq war? All those people said - you shouldn't be interviewing, you should be taking him to The Hague. That will never go away, will it? There will always be people who feel like that. But the majority of people are far more sensible about issues like this. The people who do the blogs and the whatever, nowadays and will come on the protests, it's not the whole of people. No, but it means that you have to live a semi-protected life. You can't go out there and wander the streets or do book-signings or behave like an ordinary person. Well that's the way it is but it is the way it is on politics. Speaking about book signings and the book. At what point did you decide to hand the 4.5 million to the British legion and have you written them a cheque? All the money I get from the book, the advance and... And any royalties abroad? Any royalties abroad, anywhere. Anything I get, I will pass on to them. But you have had some money and you have given it to them All the money I have, I will give to them. Why? Because I wanted and I took this decision not to give it the to the British Legion but to give it to something connected to the Armed Forces, before I had written a word, because I wanted to indicate my sense of respect Avon the honour in which I held those people that I regard as out on the frontline of the biggest security threat we face in the world today. So it's saying respect, it's not saying sorry? No, it's, look - it's to honour their commitment. I believe what they are doing is valuable and worthwhile. I don't think they're their sacrifice or their commitment is wasted. I think on the contrary, it's absolutely necessary for our security and the security of the world but it's my way of showing that sense of honour to them. I know some of them will not want it and some people will shout about it and I don't mind about that, it's not why I'm doing it. I know why I'm doing it, so I don't. You are a very rich man, I think a property empire is a fair phrase. How is it, eight, nine properties now? I don't and the reports of my wealth are... How many have you got? I will say one thing about this. I'm basically a public service person. I could have stayed at the Bar if I wanted to make money. In my life now - I would have stayed on as being Prime Minister and been happy, I would have taken the presidency of the European Union and been very happy. You would have taken that if it had been offered? Yes, and I would have delighted to do it and I may do a public service job in the future. What motivates me is not making money and never has been. It is correct I want to take care of my family. I spend a lot of time travelling the world and don't spend as much time with them as I would like. But the important thing for me is to build these charities, the interfaith charity, which is bringing different faiths in the world together which is connected with what I'm doing and the African governor's charity which we want to expand, they are multi-million pound charities now and I want to build them up even future in the future. Given the bitterness in Iraq, the endless wearysome rows inside New Labour. I mean reading the books, it is like an endless playground fight between different tribal groups. It is not really. The fact is we changed an enormous amount. I bet these disagreements were every bit as fierce in the governments of the past but we are living in a different culture and different world. People didn't explain and talk about them in the way they do today. If you think about the governments in the past, if you think of the two other Prime Ministers in terms of changing the country since the war, that you would presumably want to be judged by, would be Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher, you you would have to say they both changed Britain more radically than you were able to do? Well I think that's a judge that will be made in history. I don't want to - it's not a comparison I make. I think in some ways... Given your huge majorities, could you not have done more? I think we did do an immense amount and I think in time people will see that more clearly. In a sense, what we were trying to do was to modernise the concept of public services in the welfare state, which in a way the at Lee Government introduced but in a very monolithic and in today's terms now an old-fashioned way -- the Atlee Government. And in respect of Mrs Thatcher, we were trying to keep that Liberalism and dynamism that I think was an important part of Britain's economic progress, but, add to it a greater sense of us, as a country, where we were investing in the public realm, where we were treating people equally, where we were trying to enhance opportunity for those that didn't have it. And so, you know, I think - I mean each government lives in its own time and has to deal with its own challenges but I think when we were running Britain, when I was Prime Minister, I think the country was strong, and felt a fairer and better place than it had been, but that's my, you know that's what I think, many may disagree. Tony Blair, thank you very much indeed for speaking to us. Thank you.
Fri Sep 17, 2010 10:56 am
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