Audio/Transcript: Tony Blair interview on “Today” (Humphrys) on cash-for-honours

Comment at end

Or –

25th March 2007

(Updated 1st Feb 2012 with audio link)

Broadcast onBBC Radio4’s Today, 2nd February 2007

This interview can be heard here at the BBC’s archives –

Tony Blair
We ask Blair whether his domestic and foreign policies have succeeded. Listen back to ten years of Tony Blair’s Today Programme Interviews.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: We can’t go on like this, can we?

TONY BLAIR: We can’t go on in what sense?

JH: This inquiry, it’s doing damage, isn’t it?

TB: Well, I think it has got to run its course over the next few weeks. I hope it will be wound up and then let’s see where we are then, and in the meantime – despite what people may think – I get on with the job.

JH: You may get on with the job, but it’s doing damage, isn’t it? That’s the point.

TB: I think the most sensible thing is actually to wait and see what the inquiry comes up with, and we won’t have a great deal longer to wait. But for me, if I describe my day to you yesterday – it started with a meeting on Iraq and Afghanistan and how we move forward in those two places and what we do in respect of British troops there. We then had the Cabinet, which was dominated by Lords reform and measures against terrorism. I then had a meeting with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness on the Northern Ireland peace process. And then I finished at a huge conference on school sport, talking about how we are bringing back competitive sport in schools, how we are going to expand sports facilities and so on. You know, in the end, I totally understand why this obviously is very distracting and somewhat obsessive for the media – it’s bound to be – but it isn’t for me.

JH: But it’s not just for the media, is it? And it’s not just distracting, if you hear what Lord Kinnock said yesterday – and you will have seen it. He said the damage to reputation and trust will take years and a great deal of action to try and repair. Your own party chairman Hazel Blears talks about the corrosive effect. We’ve heard Shahid Malik saying there’s enormous damage being done to trust and confidence in our democracy. That’s what I mean when I say it can’t go on.

TB: Yeah, I entirely understand why you say it, but it’s not going to go on because it’s going to come to a conclusion and the sensible thing is to wait for the conclusion before we reach our own conclusions.

JH: But it has been going on for a very long time now.

TB: Yes, it certainly has.

JH: And do you know that it will come to a conclusion soon?

TB: It’s entirely up to the police as to when they conclude their inquiry, but I mean, let us hope at any rate that it does come to a conclusion shortly. And then, incidentally, I will be perfectly happy to answer questions about it and what went on and so forth. All I say to members of the public is I wouldn’t believe everything that is ricocheting round the media in terms of what is supposed to have happened.

JH: What should we not believe?

TB: Well, I’m not going to go into all the detail of it. But what I will do, incidentally, very, very clearly indeed is, when it is over, I am perfectly happy to answer questions on it.

JH: But you have… not gone into detail, but you have made some comments. You talked about one of your own staff who was herself questioned and you commented on her. So it’s not as though you’ve made no comment at all.

TB: No, and it’s difficult isn’t it, because obviously people say ‘Should this person carry on working for you?’ and then you’ve got to say whether you have confidence in them or not. There are some of the allegations that have been in the media over the past couple of weeks that have just been completely untrue, and therefore we’ve got to deny them, otherwise they are just treated as fact. But the best thing to do is to wait for the thing to conclude, and in the meantime get on with the job. Here we are in this health service centre today and, to be fair to you guys on the Today programme – and I’m not always fair to you – you’ve been conducting for a week a detailed analysis of the health service. What brought me into politics was to do things. Now, part of modern politics, I’m afraid, is this kind of scandal and controversy. It’s just there.

JH: Is it?

TB: Yes.

JH: Is it inevitable?

TB: Well, it’s an interesting question, that. And again, at a later stage – not in the context of this, simply – you and I can talk about that. But I think the relationship between modern politics and the modern media is a study all in itself. When I was at this conference yesterday in Telford for school sports, we had 2,000 people there and it’s a huge thing what’s happening in school sport at the moment, and it’s obviously got implications for public health and obesity and how kids develop, and then I went to visit a fantastic new academy school, the Sandwell Academy, and saw what they are doing with some of the children from disadvantaged backgrounds in their area. There’s a huge debate about policy that is there, but it doesn’t seem to me often to get the coverage that we should have for these issues. Which is why I think, actually, what you’ve done this week is both sensible and responsible.

JH: But that is partly because of so much attention being focused on you personally, and that’s the point of this, isn’t it? It’s being focused on you, Tony Blair, and you say we have to wait for it to come to an end. You actually could bring it to an end. You could say ‘Look, I’m going, I’m leaving Number 10’ within a few months anyway, we all know that – we don’t know precisely when, but we do know you are going. You could say ‘I am going to go next week, or tomorrow. I’m going to put an end to it, you can have somebody else then in Number 10 to kick around if you like, but I’m going to put an end to it’. You could do that and then it wouldn’t be about Tony Blair the Prime Minister, would it? That’s the point.

TB: I hear what you say, but…

JH: It would be a service to the country, to the party, wouldn’t it, if they believe that your presence there is doing it enormous damage?

TB: It’s not a very democratic way to decide who the Prime Minister is or not.

JH: But you’ve already decided that. You’ve decided you are going.

TB: I have said that I will stand down this Parliament, but I have also said that I want to conclude certain things and finish certain things. For example, the health service reforms that we are engaged in at the moment, I believe in very, very strongly.

JH: I’m going to come to that, if I may. I’ll stop you there for a second because I do want to come to the health service in a moment in greater detail. But surely Gordon Brown could do those things. You’ve said time after time you have total confidence in him, everyone expects he will be Prime Minister – I know you’re not going to confirm that. But the fact is, he could do those things that you want to do.

TB: Absolutely, I’m sure he could.

JH: So why not stand down? Why not put an end to it all?

TB: Because I don’t think that’s the right way to do it and I think it would be particularly wrong to do it before the inquiry has even run its course and come to any conclusions. So you’ll have to put up with me for a bit longer.

JH: Ten years ago, we spoke after the first scandal – if that’s what it was – of the Formula 1 affair. We did a television interview and you said to me – and the quote has been used many, many times since then, you’ll know where I’m going – “people think I’m a pretty straight kind of guy”. They don’t think that now, do they?

TB: Well, you know, I thought you might ask me that and I thought about how I should answer it and actually, I got the same thing put to me during the course of the last election, when people were calling me a liar and a war criminal and so on. Maybe this is how I have changed over the years as well. I said then, during the election campaign, and I would say now, I am not going to beg for my character in front of anyone. People can make up their mind about me, according to what they think about me, but I know what type of person I am. And I am not going to get into a situation where I’m sort of pleading for my integrity, not even actually in front of the public, even though I obviously have a deep respect for the British people and it has been an honour and a privilege to lead them. I try to do my best. I have tried to do my best over the last 10 years. I don’t say I have always got everything right – of course I haven’t. There have been mistakes and things that have gone wrong along the way, but actually when I look back on my 10 years, I do believe that there’s a lot that has been good for the country as well. So I am not really going to comment on my character like that. Other people can comment on it as much as they like.

JH: No I wasn’t really asking you to comment on your character. I was asking you whether you could say today, as you said 10 years ago, “people think…” because that’s the point. It’s what people think of you. Because that’s damaging to the nation, not just to you.

TB: Of course, but, you know, 10 years on, I answer that in a different way and I answer it in a different way because perhaps I am a different sort of person too.

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Related

Transcript above also at Guardian

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22nd February, 2007

Listen to Tony Blair’s interview on “Today” with John Humphrys, following the troops withdrawal announcement.

John Humphrys raked over the past “failures of responsibility” of the coalition in a determined effort to extract an apology, to no avail. The Prime Minister argued his corner clearly and persuasively. He denied that the “vacuum” cited to have been caused just after the invasion by inadequate planning was our mistake. “You had to disband the police of Saddam. There was no way the Iraqi police force would have been able to keep order properly. They were the instrument of Saddam. The principal reasons you have a problem is because there are elements giving you that problem.”

Read the BBC report on the 22nd Feb 2007 Today interview.


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Recent comments:

I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)

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The greatest and most successful leader the Labour Party has ever had with the courage to fight the Islamist terrorists who really would like to kill us all, and you never hear a good word about him. The herd of independent minds, commentators, activists etc who have never had to make a difficult decision in their lives drown out all debate with their inane chants of war crimes and blood on his hands. Defend him at every chance. I just wish more people would do it. (Glasgow, UK)
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Blair was the greatest Labour Prime Minister. It is a disgrace that the party has turned away from his legacy. Shame on Ed Miliband and his so-called ‘new generation’.

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