Comment at end
15th November, 2007
“WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE PM AGAIN?”
“No”, said Mr Blair.
So those of us who wish he would, will just have to “move on”, as per the oft-used Blair phrase.
The Shields Gazette was the only paper granted an interview with the former PM after his appearance at the Customs House last night.
“Erm, yes,” he floundered. “That’s all I’m saying, otherwise I might get into trouble.”
Read the rest of this story here.
My thoughts: The idea that Blair was “lost for words” is, erm, laughable. He is just careful which words he uses. But this answer will not have pleased GB/PM.
Main article by David MacLean follows:
‘SITTING in a backstage dressing room prior to delivering the sixth annual South Shields Lecture at the Customs House, in front of a mirror surrounded by lightbulbs, Tony Blair sat relaxed but alert.
It was an ironic setting in which to meet the former Prime Minister, so often branded an actor by his one-time opponents.
The Shields Gazette was the only newspaper to be granted an interview with Mr Blair, now a Middle East peace envoy, but I was far from alone.
As security staff buzzed around him, South Shields MP David Miliband leaned against the wall behind me, silently looking on.
“He’s stood behind me like a mobster,” I said. “Mobster Miliband – there’s your headline,” Mr Blair shot back.
But in a flash, he was serious again, speaking about the vocal anti-Iraq war protesters assembled outside. He admitted that the anti-war lobby could follow him for the rest of his life.
“I’ve got no idea how long this will go on for. It could be for ever,” he said. “I guess that as long as their protests are within the law, then that’s their democratic right.”
Things didn’t need to be this confrontational for him. The rest of his life could have been spent on a golf course or relaxing abroad.
Instead, he took on the daunting role of Middle East peace envoy the day after leaving 10 Downing Street.
“It’s not the same as before,” he said. “As Prime Minister, I’d wake up and have 15 different decisions to make, but that’s gone now.
“I pick and choose what to do these days, but in terms of the hours I work, it’s probably the same as when I was in office.”
Commentators may say that Mr Blair was hounded out of office by a baying Gordon Brown, but when asked directly whether June was the right time to leave office, he gives a rare one-word answer: “Yes.”
[Pic: Mr Blair looking fit, opening his own Sports Foundation in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.]
From The Sun:
One local said: “He was carrying a bit of weight towards the end at No10 but now there’s not a scrap of fat on him.”
‘Good to see him in his Prime’, said The Sun.
In the flesh, the 54-year-old looks 10 years younger than most men of his age, but it’s a miracle he hasn’t developed frown lines as the mere mention of a touchy subject causes him to flinch.
The subject of the police’s cash for honours inquiry came up.
“Oh yeah, that,” he said, looking up nervously at Mr Miliband.
Did he feel any anger that it wrongly hung over him during his final days in office?
He said: “Let’s move on. I’m a great believer in moving on. We should just move on from that. I don’t like raking over the past and having regrets – life’s too short.”
The black cloud of the investigation caused him not to issue a resignation honours list, making him the first Prime Minister in history not to do so.
I asked him if, now that the Government had been cleared, he would finally produce such a list.
Mr Blair was visibly annoyed. Mr Miliband let out a muffled groan.
“That’s the last thing on my mind,” the former Prime Minister fired back.
The chemistry between Mr Blair and Mr Miliband was evident. They’re very comfortable in each other’s company, and bounce off each other when they talk.
Did Mr Blair ever think that the South Shields MP would be his natural heir?
He glanced up at the Foreign Secretary again, asking: “Shall I answer that?” Mr Miliband nodded cautiously with his eyes closed.
“I’m very proud of him. It’s a great achievement to become Foreign Secretary, but it’s down to David to decide that, not me,” replied Mr Blair.
Recalling his car journey into South Shields, he said regeneration in North East England has turned our towns into “world-class areas” with challenges ahead.
He ended by answering that most cliched, but revealing, of questions – what were his finest, and toughest, moments in politics?
He thought about the question for at least 10 seconds before replying: “The Northern Ireland peace agreement was a very great moment for me, but taking the decision to send people into battle will always be the hardest thing to do.” ‘
[The full article contains 678 words and appears in Shields Gazette newspaper.]
And after the speech – was it off for a high class late-night meal? Not at all. The local restaurant for a fish and chip supper. Wonder how he keeps his shape? It was generally agreed that he has shed pounds and years since leaving office. No wonder he doesn’t want to be PM again.
14th November, 2007
Tonight Tony Blair is speaking at a South Shields free meeting at the invitation of David Miliband the local MP. It seems he can expect a rough welcome from the local Stop The War coalition. Well, he’s used to that.
I expect, like me, they still tend to think of Blair as the real Prime Minister, and therefore with the necessary powers! I empathise.
Or are they just trying to remind us of something?
OK, well let me remind them of just one example of the company they keep in this quest of theirs. There’s a bigger picture, peace-lovers.
To paraphrase (sort of) : The friend of my enemy is my enemy.
Well, some of the time. This, folks is politics, and the reason we elect politicians. If you don’t trust ours, you can alway emigrate. PLEASE!
The Northern Echo also has a piece on this, mainly concentrating on his new Sports Foundation.
A relaxed looking Tony Blair today returned to the North-East for the first time since taking up his new role as Middle East envoy to launch his own sports foundation.
The former prime minister was in his old Sedgefield constituency to formally launch The Tony Blair Sports Foundation.
Mr Blair sees the foundation as a way of giving something back to his former constituents in County Durham and the wider North-East.