BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Audio/Video: Programmes: Breakfast with Frost
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Programmes 

banner
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW
PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR MP SEPTEMBER 24TH, 2000

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST
And now as promised we welcome the Prime Minister. Prime Minister good morning.

TONY BLAIR
Good morning David.

DAVID FROST
When we were arranging this interview, the offices and so on, you had a 22 point lead in the polls just two or three weeks ago, the latest poll, now it's - according to the latest poll - 8 behind and, which is an incredible swing and people say that the trigger for that was the petrol blockade, have you now worked out why that went so wrong for you?

TONY BLAIR
I think it's fairly obvious that people were, were angry and wondered how on earth this could have happened and it happened on my watch so I take responsibility for it. And I think, you know as ever with these things, the issue is not how you deal with the easy times but how you deal with the testing times.

DAVID FROST
And what are you going to do about petrol, I mean you, you've said it's too expensive, on the other hand originally that was a green policy to make it too expensive, that green policy has gone by the board presumably?

TONY BLAIR
No it's not, I mean there are good environmental reasons but I've never hidden the fact that in the first two years of government we had to carry on the fuel duty escalator because we needed to get rid of the big deficit and I mean these are difficult times for us but I believe what is important is for us to keep focused the entire time on the big issues. You know creating a stable economy rather than an economy of boom and bust which is the economy we inherited. Getting people back into work and there are a million more jobs and investing in our schools and hospitals rather than the cuts proposed by the Conservatives. Now I just think when people come back to those big issues we're strong and they're weak.

DAVID FROST
But I mean were you caught on the hope really, did you not realise how serious the petrol, the feeling, the feelings not only of hauliers and farmers but ordinary people became motorists first and foremost?

TONY BLAIR
Sure we were well aware of how seriously felt about it and of course people do feel that petrol's too expensive, it is very expensive. Now obviously what I've got to do is also say to people first of all the last 20p rise in the litre of petrol, 18p of it is due to the world oil price which is why this has gone on in other countries as well. But secondly it isn't the case that the government's sitting there with some vast windfall out of that, it's nothing like the figures that have been described in parts of the press and the third thing is that it's important that we decide whatever we can do for people in rural areas or hauliers or farmers as part of the budget process and don't end up in a situation where we start introducing emergency budgets in September which would really seriously damage the financial standing and credibility of the country.

DAVID FROST
But would you like to make fuel cheaper then?

TONY BLAIR
Of course we'd all like to do it, the question's whether you can do it responsibly and given your other priorities.

DAVID FROST
But I mean is it across the board, I mean what system are you considering, you obviously won't make a decision 'til the budget, but that raises a very, or the pre-budget statement, very important point which is will you make a response before the 6-day deadline imposed by the blockaders or are you going to say up yours as far as that's concerned?

TONY BLAIR
Oh I won't say that but as I said at the time I can't accept deadlines being put on the government process or the pre-budget report and I do also say we are listening to people, we have listened to people, we listened, for example, to the farmers earlier in the year when we put together a very considerable financial package to try and help them. Now they're still in huge difficulty for all the reasons that we, we know, but of course we will try and do what we can to try and help people but it has to be part of the normal budget process and we have to weigh it with other priorities because people also want a sound economy, they also want to make sure that investments going into our schools and hospitals, our police and our transport system.

DAVID FROST
But when you talk about prices, Prime Minister, do you mean for special groups like hauliers and farmers or the, across the board every motorist?

TONY BLAIR
Well we're not in the position of taking decisions like that now, we've got to look at the sums and the figures and the other thing that is very important to realise, I mean for example people say to us well you've got this vast VAT windfall as a result of increased oil prices, we haven't, because VAT is reclaimable by businesses on their fuel the net receipt to the Treasury would barely amount to a fraction of 1p off VAT.

DAVID FROST
No, I know, I realise that about VAT but on the other hand the tax on North Sea Oil has brought in a bonus of over a billion this year, that could be distributed straight away?

TONY BLAIR
Well it could but then you've got to look at that with all the other figures when you come to make your budget decision and even if you took a billion, which would be what, 2p off the duty, you've got to ask is that a sensible thing to do. So all I say to people is I understand the concern over what happened and it's true to say, I think we, like most people, were taken by surprise in terms of how quickly it spread and probably we weren't quick enough off the mark but what we needed to do once the situation got underway was to take the firmest action we possibly could and not to yield on the basic principle, which I think people understand, but you know you can't, you can't have budget policy determined in this way.

DAVID FROST
So that if the committee under Jack Straw which is concentrating on law and order in a way, in terms of blockades and so on, is doing its job, can you tell us today that never again will a blockade like that succeed, that you have, even if you don't reveal them, the means to win next time rather than lose?

TONY BLAIR
Well I believe that we won't face that situation again and the plan that we're putting in place will avoid that. However I also think that the protestors themselves realise that it isn't really a sensible way to try and influence government.

DAVID FROST
What about the Dome, has it become time to say that the Dome failed, was a mistake?

TONY BLAIR
Well you know I don't apologise for trying to do something really ambitious for the Millennium, now it's not been the success we hoped, that is true and there's no point in denying that. However I do simply say to people to try and put the other side of the balance sheet we've reclaimed that whole part of the North Greenwich peninsula which was virtually a swamp before, nothing had happened for 25 years there. There are thousands of jobs that have been created there, over the next few years as the site's developed there'll probably, according to some of the estimates, 30,000 jobs created over the next five, seven years and millions of people went there and enjoyed it. Now I think it's important to put the other side of the balance sheet.

DAVID FROST
But I mean it has been a flop, in terms of what its original intention was, as an attraction that 12 million people would visit in a year, as Clare Short said on Question Time it's been a flop?

TONY BLAIR
Well I mean we'll get over six million there but I think if someone said yesterday, it's not been the runaway success we hoped but neither has it been the disaster that it's portrayed in some parts and I just think it's important that people do understand because I think it's the money, if you like, gets under people's skin, they say well couldn't this money have been better used, that money is an investment for that whole part of London that will end up in a huge regeneration and many many jobs. So I just think we need to put that in the account as well as all the things that people say that are wrong with it.

DAVID FROST
But no one ever mentioned that really until the original, the original idea failed?

TONY BLAIR
No I don't think that's true, we did mention it but obviously our hope was that it would be, you know a big visitor attraction to mark the Millennium and there it was on the Millennium site, I do point out as well, because this is, the Conservatives criticise it that when we came into office both the site, the funding, the management, everything to do with it including the construction of the Dome were already in place and the question for us was whether we cancelled it. Now I think we made, you know, the right decision to try for something bold and ambitious, it is in fact still the second biggest paying visitor attraction in Europe, the biggest in the UK and those people who go to it enjoy it. However having said that, you know there's no point in denying the facts.

DAVID FROST
Not in denying the facts that in its original plan it was a flop?

TONY BLAIR
Well I'm not saying that¿

DAVID FROST
You're not going to go as far as flop?

TONY BLAIR
No I'm not, I'm not saying that¿

DAVID FROST
Mistake?

TONY BLAIR
What I am saying is that probably¿

DAVID FROST
Disappointment?

TONY BLAIR
If I had known then what I know now about governments trying to run a visitor attraction of this sort, or these types of visitor attraction, it would probably have been too ambitious a thing for a government to have tried to do. I mean if you look for example, at Euro Disney, it took several years before it settled down, you know these things do take time to settle down but just, in the years to come if this site is developed in the way that we hope and the businesses and the jobs are there and that whole part of, of London has been reclaimed then I think there is something at least to put on the other side of the balance. I'm not exaggerating or trying to claim, you know, there's been some great runaway success, I'm not saying that. I'm simply saying there is another side to the balance sheet.

DAVID FROST
Another side to the balance sheet but, but as you said there, if you had your time over again knowing now the problems for a government running these sort of things, you probably would have said no rather than yes?

TONY BLAIR
Well it was the right thing to try and do to try and do something bold and ambitious but it's a difficult thing for a government to run a visitor attraction and get it all sorted out that quickly in the one year because as I say when you look at these other visitor attraction projects they do take a long time to settle down.

DAVID FROST
Will it be able to continue to the end of the year without a further subsidy?

TONY BLAIR
Well there's no reason why it shouldn't.

DAVID FROST
It won't need any more money?

TONY BLAIR
No, there is the contingency there for it and actually those, the actual figures that are coming through now, there are more people going than that contingency provides for.

DAVID FROST
But you have¿

TONY BLAIR
There are still thousands of people going every day.

DAVID FROST
And you have a certain sympathy though with the people who say, God all that money being poured in there, it could have built four large hospitals, it could have, I mean who feel that, feel angry about the money being wasted?

TONY BLAIR
Well I totally understand that, all I say again to people is it was part of £2 billion worth of Millennium projects right round the country, you know which were building things in different regions of Britain. So again it's important just to put it in context but I understand the concern people have over it.

DAVID FROST
Do you say sorry to those people?

TONY BLAIR
As I say I don't apologise for trying it but I think you've got to accept the fact that it wasn't the success we hoped. What I do think is important though, still, even now, is that people put, as I say, the other side of it.

DAVID FROST
Who is responsible for what didn't go right, I mean is it Peter Mandelson, or Charlie Falconer or Bob Ayling or yourself or who?

TONY BLAIR
Well I think I, I've come to the view that I take responsibility readily so, if it's anyone's responsibility it's mine.

DAVID FROST
Oh in that case you can take credit for Steve Redgrave as well, it happened on your watch¿ The third of the things that triggered this extraordinary public relations, public polls situation, was the return, thanks to Andrew Rawnsley's book, I point to where he was sitting, I don't want people to think he is actually sitting there at this moment, getting a well earned cup of coffee, but in the book he says very clearly that you mislead John Humphrys on On The Record on two points. That first of all you said that you'd referred the matter to Sir Patrick Neill before the first inquiries from the press, before there was a danger that you were caught up, Mr Baldwin and the other two pressmen and, but in fact no approach had been made, says Andrew Rawnsley, to Sir Patrick Neill,no letter had been sent when those first journalistic inquiries came in on November 4th?

TONY BLAIR
We're going back over all this three years ago and it's really recycled stuff that was dealt with at the time but actually that is incorrect, in fact what I said was that we'd already indicated that we weren't going to accept any further donations before inquiries to the press were made and that's absolutely right. And what then happened was we decided, and we were the first political party who had ever done this, to ask the standards watchdog whether we should repay the money and what we should do in these circumstances, where there is an apparent conflict of interest though, even though no one had ever asked us to do anything improper connected with the money¿

DAVID FROST
But you didn't in fact ask, ask about the first donation, the £1 million, in the letter to Sir Patrick Neill, he came back, he came back and said you shouldn't take another one and then to your shock, horror, surprise, he said and you've got to give back the million?

TONY BLAIR
No that's not right in fact, again with the published correspondence at the time you can see that we mentioned the first donation too.

DAVID FROST
But you didn't ask for guidance?

TONY BLAIR
Yes we did ask for guidance on it, and so I mean it is literally a rehashed old lot of stuff from three years ago, every single bit of which was dealt with then.

DAVID FROST
Yes, but I, but I don't, I read the letter and I didn't see anywhere where you asked for guidance on the first?

TONY BLAIR
Well I mean we did.

DAVID FROST
And the only other thing was to say that you'd, you didn't write to Sir Patrick Neill until you knew you'd been caught out by the three journalists applying to Number 10 on this issue?

TONY BLAIR
No that isn't right either, we, we, we knew obviously the moment it happened, we knew there was a problem because of the donation and therefore what we decided to do was we made it clear straight away that we couldn't accept any further donations and then there were discussions that went on over the next couple of days, well what do we do and in the end it was decided that the best thing was to ask for, for Pat Neill's advice and that's precisely what we did.

DAVID FROST
But the point I was making was just that, that you only did that after you knew the journalists were onto the story?

TONY BLAIR
It wasn't a question of wanting¿simply deciding to do it because the journalists had inquired, there was evidently a problem the moment that it happened and you know we are, as I say, I think probably the first political that has ever repaid a donation in circumstances where no one in fact asked us to do anything improper at all, it didn't in fact influence government policy in any shape or form and here we are now as a political party, in government, having for the first time for any political party published a list of donors, the amounts of donations, introducing legislation to make sure that political funding is brought under proper control. I mean we still don't know even though the Conservatives are criticising me over this, how they funded the last election campaign, but anyway I mean all this is, you know I think it's, it's an indication of the, of the, sort of mood the media are in at the moment.

DAVID FROST
Right but I mean the point was though on the one million itself, I mean you only, you say the only party who paid it back, but you only paid it back because Sir Patrick Neill surprised you by saying you'd got to?

TONY BLAIR
No that's not right, I mean we, we, what we asked for was his advice and we asked for¿

DAVID FROST
On the second donation though? And then he surprised you by coming back to the first one?

TONY BLAIR
I think when you look at the correspondence, I mean I'd have to get it back out again, but I think you will find that it, it dealt with all the issues. And you know that's a perfectly sensible thing for us to have done, we were in a situation where obviously it was an apparent conflict of interest so we asked him for his advice and he gave it and we took it and acted on it.

DAVID FROST
And in fact in terms of this, it is going back over old ground in one sense, but in another sense with, with new suggestions and new evidence and it's very, very important because you always, always put a lot of store by your credibility and so on, and, and your reputation for honesty and so on, so therefore that's why this gets such enormous attention?

TONY BLAIR
Yes.

DAVID FROST
Just as, just as people's disappointment with NHS and education is partially because of Camelot, in this case because you have such a crystal clear reputation that's why this, this particular thing about what's in that letter and neither of us have got the letter here, but it is so important just as with Gordon Brown, did he lie or didn't he lie on the Today programme. You, you stand or fall by your reputations?

TONY BLAIR
Well of course but I mean the only big thing that people need to recall out of this is that having accepted a donation with an apparent conflict of interest we then repaid it and did so at the instance of the body that is the independent body that looks into things like this.

DAVID FROST
Yes but¿but doing it at that moment is a bit like a guy running out of a bank with a thing, marked swag and when the policeman stops it he hands it back?

TONY BLAIR
No I think that's pretty unfair because as I say before anything happened we'd already indicated we couldn't accept any further money then there were discussions about what to do about the original donation. Now you know we acted as quickly and as properly as we possibly could, as I say the money was actually repaid when we were advised to do that. I mean I just, I mean all I would say to you, I mean here are sort of 15 minutes into the interview, it, at some point in time I think it is important that we get back to the fundamental questions that determine the future of the country and that's, when I think about the present situation I'm aware of all the problems.

DAVID FROST
No I mean, I know there are other subjects you'd rather talk about, that's understandable, but we had to begin by talking about what everybody says are the three things which have damaged, dented your reputation, or the government's reputation. I mean Philip, Philip Gould, he of the focus groups in one of those leaked memos talked about the New Labour brand being contaminated, do you think it is now, as a result of all the things we're talking about?

TONY BLAIR
Not if people go back to the big issues and ask is this government doing what we said and promised to people a little over three years ago we would do and those promises were to run the economy well, which we've done, better than the Conservatives, sorted it out, mortgage rates averaging what, just about half what they were in the Conservative years. A million more jobs and investments in the schools and hospitals, police and transport systems that are an essential reason why people decided to get rid of the Conservatives and put us in. Now we've done all that, the extra investment, getting people off benefit and into work without imperiling the state of the economy, indeed improving the economy. Now I think, you know, I mean last week, for example, what happened was the best ever primary school results this country's ever seen, the best, now when we came into office just over 50 per cent of the 11-year-olds in the country, just over 50 per cent were passing those tests. Now the figure is almost 75 per cent and rising, in the end that is what will determine the future of this country, not what happened over some donation to the Labour Party that was repaid three years ago. Now my job as the Prime Minister is to go back to those fundamentals, those big issues and get them right.

DAVID FROST
And what are you going to do, Prime Minister, about one of those key issues that's going to be a key issue this week on pensions, the Help the Aged, over-55's poll had, had a, had an even higher majority for the Conservatives 10 points or whatever because pensioners are obviously concerned. Now you've indicated, the government's indicated this week that you are going to lift the minimum income guarantee to £90 aren't you?

TONY BLAIR
Those are the proposals that we're working on, what we're trying to do is help some of the poorest pensioners but then we want to turn our attention to those pensioners that¿aren't on benefit, that have saved but are still in circumstances of very great difficulty and, you know, again just on pensions, we are putting in this Parliament six and a half billion pounds more, we are doing that in order to help pensioners at every single level but we accept we need to do more and we will do more as we can and consistent with our priorities of running economy well and getting the investment into the public services we need. And I think when pensioners look at the alternative for the Conservatives, scrapping the Winter Alliance, getting rid of the free TV licence, getting rid of the minimum income guarantee, they will realise that it is better to be with the Labour government that is trying to do something for them than a Conservative government that will cut back.

DAVID FROST
The 75p increase probably sent, sent the wrong vibes, sent the wrong message, didn't it?

TONY BLAIR
Yes I mean in the end although it was done absolutely according to the rules pensioners perfectly naturally look at the 75p every week and don't take account, you know, of the winter allowance which is now going up to £150 and, and all the other things that we are doing for pensioners. So I totally understand that but you know it's a bit like with the rest of these issues, in the end it will come to a choice between ourselves and the Conservatives.

DAVID FROST
And in terms of pensions, you are resisting¿standing firm against re-establishing the link between pensions and earnings rather than pensions and prices and why?

TONY BLAIR
We are, we can't do that and again it's for a reason that I hope people will understand, if we relink pensions with earnings now it wouldn't be a great problem for this government, not for the next few years, but 10, 15, 20 years down the line it would impose a huge additional expense on that future generation and it isn't a responsible thing to do. The truth is what we need to do is accept that pensioners have different incomes today, we need to help the very poorest, we need to then move on to those that are above benefit levels but still not well off at all and then we need also to make sure that we've got that basic state pension there as a sort of minimum floor for people.

DAVID FROST
What about, well next term, if you win another term would you hope to have definitely that European referendum in the first half or the first year of a new Blair government if you win the next election?

TONY BLAIR
Well certainly earlier in the next Parliament is when we want to make the assessment and we haven't tied ourselves to a particular date yet.

DAVID FROST
But that's only the assessment is it?

TONY BLAIR
Well that, that's what we said, the assessment. But the assessment¿obviously you're making with the assumption that if the assessment is positive then you can recommend to people in a referendum that we join. But as I have always said to people, the economics have got to be right, in my view in principle it's a good idea for Britain to be part of the single currency, it's where we do our, the vast amount of our trade, it's important for our influence in the world and the European Union but it should only be done if the economics are right.

DAVID FROST
What about the Euro and the intervention of the Central Banks on Friday, was that something that's just done by the Treasury or is it cleared with you?

TONY BLAIR
No obviously we discussed it, but this is part of a concerted effort round the world because a lot of people looking at the Euro and saying it's not really sensible that it seems to be so low when in fact the European economies are growing.

DAVID FROST
But what about tomorrow, will you have to do some more do you think?

TONY BLAIR
No that's not anticipated but it's, whatever we do we will do with other countries.

DAVID FROST
And what, Prime Minister, what about the Danish referendum this week, I mean if the Danes vote against does that have any effect, any impact on us?

TONY BLAIR
No, because, the Danish position of course is different because their currency is already tied to the Euro so it is simply for them, you know the political and obviously there's an economic question as well for them, as to whether they become full members of, of monetary union. But we've got to make our decision on the basis of what's right for this country.

DAVID FROST
What about the referendum on the new voting system, is that going to happen in the next Parliament if you win the election?

TONY BLAIR
That depends on the discussions we have now leading up to the manifesto and you know, we'll announce that in due course.

DAVID FROST
In due course, with all this, these incredible opinion polls and so on, it looks more and more as though Mo Mowlam was a real loss, was there nothing you could do to keep her?

TONY BLAIR
Well I would like her, her to have stayed but she, for reasons that are, that are her own reasons and she's explained to people and aren't reasons actually anything to do with the government, wants to leave politics.

DAVID FROST
But what role will she have in the up-coming election?

TONY BLAIR
Oh I mean I think you'll find from her speech today that she's determined to play a full part right up to it and probably, you know she will carry on helping and supporting the Labour Party and hopefully the Labour government after the election too.

DAVID FROST
No way you could find a new job for her, you just think she's, she's out of your reach?

TONY BLAIR
No I've no doubt at all Mo will end up doing something significant in public life because she's a very talented and able person and a very popular person, but you know she doesn't want that contribution to be as a, as part of the government or as a Member of Parliament.

DAVID FROST
Was it just that she didn't like the job she'd got really?

TONY BLAIR
No I don't think so, I think it was, especially after doing a job like Northern Ireland, you know you have to talk to her about this but I think after doing a job like Northern Ireland there's no job that's quite like it afterwards and I think that she felt then and feels now she wants to do something different, not necessarily something outside of public life or politics but something different. But as I say something to put her, and let her answer.

DAVID FROST
That's right, well in terms of Northern Ireland the news is not good in a way that David Trimble's candidate lost that election and the Patten report really does seem to be a flashpoint, David, David Trimble has said if the Patten report had come out any earlier there would have been no Good Friday Agreement, he wouldn't have necessarily voted for it himself, Gerry Adams is equally unsatisfied, the other side, so apart from having a sort of committee ??? of dislike over the Patten report it is a major hot potato?

TONY BLAIR
It was always going to be that, wasn't it, because you need to have a police service in Northern Ireland capable of attracting people from all parts of the community but at the same time it's important that we do not denigrate the service and the memory of the RUC who have given extraordinary service to people in Northern Ireland in circumstances of very great difficulties, so it was always going to be hard to find the way through but we commissioned the independent report from Chris Patten who was a, not just a former Conservative Party Chairman but a former Northern Ireland minister and you know we were in discussion with the parties as to the best way forward, but all I say to people about Northern Ireland is whatever the difficulties and there will be difficulties, I mean we've always known that, it was never suddenly going to happen, that you had peace in Northern Ireland. But the progress that has been made is extraordinary, you have a power sharing executive with Republicans and Nationalists sitting down with Unionists in circumstances where, you know, vast parts of Northern Ireland are now transformed as a result of it, so even though, yes you've still got extremists, extremist Republicans, extremist Loyalists who will carry on trying to disrupt the peace process because they're totally opposed to it, the vast bulk of the people in Northern Ireland and in particular all the mainstream political parties now are supporting it and working for it too, to deliver the future in Northern Ireland we want to see.

DAVID FROST
And, and what do you mean¿well Ian Paisley's a powerful force on the other side, I don't know whether you call him mainstream or not, but Ian Paisley, is he the biggest problem you face?

TONY BLAIR
No I think the people need to see the process really working and there are these difficult issues to get sorted out but I think if you compare where Northern Ireland is today with five or ten years ago the progress has been enormous. You only have to go to Belfast and you see it and so of course there will be these problems, it's never going to be easy but I think that the process in Northern Ireland is the only serious prospect of delivering peace for people there. So whatever the difficulties for heaven's sake let's keep working on it and, and, and make it happen for the future because there are a whole generation of young people there who for the first time now are able to grow up without the constant threat of violence around them.

DAVID FROST
So that the result of the election this week was a set back but it was not terminal?

TONY BLAIR
Absolutely.

DAVID FROST
Is the summing up on that. It's said that you're getting attracted by ministers to the idea of fixed term Parliaments, is that true?

TONY BLAIR
I'm afraid I haven't read that one, I missed that one along with everything else.

DAVID FROST
Oh you've had a lot to read. No it springs from the idea that people say wouldn't it be great if the Prime Minister was to say there won't be an election for a year so that everyone would know we've got a full year's Parliament ahead?

TONY BLAIR
Well¿

DAVID FROST
You're going to keep that option wide, wide open?

TONY BLAIR
We've certainly got no plans to change it. The present situation.

DAVID FROST
Steve Redgrave raises a point, the papers have references to a £3 billion sum that you earmarked for sport?

TONY BLAIR
£1 billion.

DAVID FROST
£1 billion, £1 billion in three years, yes?

TONY BLAIR
Yes it's very important that we make this investment, there'll be 1500 schools that are going to benefit from it, I think investing in sport isn't just about investing in sport and leisure it's also about giving young kids something to do, not hanging around street corners but engaging in good sports facilities so I think it's an anti-crime and it's a pro-education policy as well as a good sport policy.

DAVID FROST
And something that needs to be done. Why do we not do better at sport?

TONY BLAIR
I think¿

DAVID FROST
World Cup, cricket, well we had a good season this season?

TONY BLAIR
We did have a good season and I think it's interesting that we're doing better in the Olympics now partly because of some of the investment in the Olympic sports has gone on, but I think the answer to it is perfectly simple, we haven't made the investment, that's why I say you know if we, to go back to the big question of how we build a successful Britain in the future we have to one, run a strong economy, two, get people into work and three, make the investment for the future. In our schools, in our hospitals but also in things like sport and leisure and community facilities.

DAVID FROST
We were talking early on about Camelot and the high expectations and so on, the wider point here, Prime Minister, isn't it, is the thought that if there is this disenchantment at the moment, if people are disappointed with all the things that you've listed that you've done, you know if people are still disappointed and feel that you should have done more and some of these things you set aside the money for but it'll take time, do you have time to radically alter and improve delivery of all these services before the next election or will we have the same situation of people will still be disappointed because although there's big things on the way you can't show them in time for the next election?

TONY BLAIR
Well I think you can show people that the foundations are being laid and this is what is terribly important, in the end I have to stand or fall by my own record as Prime Minister, what I promised to do and what I've achieved and that's not to say you don't make mistakes along the way, of course you do and you know you've been taxing me with some of the questions this morning that are difficult questions, that are in the newspapers at the moment. But I think when you push all those to one side and ask about the future in this country, are we as a government trying to do the right thing for the future in this country, I believe the answer to that, that the country will give in the end that we are because those things that we can show people, even now are the things that really matter to them. The strength of the economy, people back into work, the investment in schools and hospitals and over the last two weeks, not that you would know it because everybody else has been going on, we have had a situation with the lowest unemployment figures for 20 years and the best ever primary school results, these things are important for the future and we also have a choice because the Conservative Party are going into the next election saying they are going to cut back our investment in the schools and hospitals and police and transport by £16 billion, that's £24 million for every constituency. Now when that choice is before people then I think that much of the things that have been difficult over the last few weeks will be put in perspective, now that's my, I may be wrong and sitting here in a year's time and it's all different but I simply say to you in the end I've got to do the right thing for the future and I, you know people say to me sometimes in the last few weeks has it been really, really tough for you and hard for you and of course it's difficult but if you can't stand the heat don't come into the kitchen, number one. And number two it is always easier if you believe in what you're doing and I believe that we are taking the right long-term judgements for this country.

DAVID FROST
And do you think that this crisis and so on, this pressure over the last week or two has made it likely that you will stay longer in politics because it's more of a challenge now and it was too easy before or do you think it means that you will leave politics sooner because although you've got to take the heat if you're in the kitchen you don't know whether it's worth the hassle to be in the kitchen?

TONY BLAIR
Have I not given you enough stories this morning, I mean [LAUGHTER] I'm not getting caught on that one, no, no, we'll wait and see, in the end the verdict, the first verdict at any rate is the verdict of the electorate and that's their judgement, they've got to make it, they've got to decide whether, you know, we've delivered and what we said or not and I think what's interesting is when you go back to the promises we've made we have delivered them and part of the, you know, I mean I'm not, as I say I'm not complaining about it because this is life in politics and, and I think what's happening is in a sense more normal today and the government's getting, you know kicked from every direction, that's the way it is, but you know the purpose of those people who are opposed to us is to drown out the basic achievements which I'm afraid today I've only been able to describe a very little of to you, and get all the rest of the stuff up there so that people don't ask those big questions about the economy and jobs and public services. Now my job is to, you know is to just hold firm, get through it and then go back to those big issues because on the big issues I believe that we're doing the right thing and I believe in the end I have faith in people judging that we are doing the right thing.

DAVID FROST
The polls, you were saying, you think the polls will change before the next election?

TONY BLAIR
Well I don't know about that do I but I mean, and it's always better to be, you know 10 points ahead than 10 points behind but I think in the end the polls come and go and as you pointed out yourself three weeks ago they were completely different now, what's important for us is to get back on the big picture and the fundamentals and when that happens then I think people will come to the conclusion that this government, for all the difficulties we had in the last few weeks is doing the right thing for the future.

DAVID FROST
Prime Minister thank you very much, we'll just get the news headlines.

[BREAK FOR NEWS]

DAVID FROST
That's it for this week, our thanks again to the Prime Minister, there'll be news bulletins throughout the day on News 24, there'll be coverage of the conference throughout the week on BBC television and Radios 4 and 5 and we'll be back at the same time next Sunday with the Olympics continuing we're again on BBC2, it's rather nice here on BBC2 isn't it, we'll be talking to William Hague amongst others next week. Top of the morning, good morning, Prime Minister thank you very much indeed.

TONY BLAIR
Thank you.

END

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE











E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Breakfast with Frost stories