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The Paxman interviews: Blair
On Wednesday 20 April, Jeremy Paxman interviewed Tony Blair. You can read a transcript of the programme below.



This transcript was supplied by an external organisation. The BBC is not responsible for its content.

PAXMAN: Hello, welcome to the second of three interviews with the leaders of the three big parties, who want our votes on May 5th. On Friday, it's Michael Howard, this evening I'm in Leeds, with the Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Prime Minister, is there anything you'd like to apologise for.

BLAIR: Well if, if you want me to apologise for the war in Iraq, I'm afraid I can't say that's sorry we removed Saddam, no, if (fluffs), if you're asking me other things that I've got wrong over the past eight years, I've already said there are certain things that any government gets wrong; I suppose I've had my share of those.

PAXMAN: But do you accept that there is a trust issue, and that the reason opposition parties can talk about wiping the smirk off your face, is because you can't any longer say, look at me, I'm a pretty straight kind of guy.

BLAIR: Well, trust is an issue. But then people are going to have to decide you know, are we to be trusted when we say we've run a strong economy, and we'll continue to do so with low interest rates and low unemployment and low inflation. I said that we would put investment in to the public services, we've have. You go and look at any school or hospital, you look at this city here, and how it's been transformed in the past few years. Look at the investment in, in the local regeneration of an inner city such as, as Leeds. Now, if you're talking about Iraq, yes, there's an issue because people, some people feel they were misled over the war and some people powerfully disagree with the, the reason why we went to war.

PAXMAN: All right, let's look at Iraq. When you told parliament that the intelligence was 'extensive, detailed and authoritative', that wasn't true was it.

BLAIR: No, it was true. There was no doubt about it

PAXMAN: It wasn't extensive, it wasn't detailed and it wasn't authoritative.

BLAIR: I'm sorry, it was. And the great thing about this now for any member of the public is that thanks to the Butler Report, and remember we've had four separate enquiries in to whether this intelligence was misused or not, each of them have come to the same conclusion and people can actually go and look on the web site and they can go and study the Joint Intelligence Committee Reports that I got

PAXMAN: Right.

BLAIR: And see the intelligence that was given to us.

PAXMAN: Okay, but you know don't you that just two weeks before you made that statement, the Joint Intelligence Committee said that 'intelligence remains limited'.

BLAIR: Of course intelligence always is limited but ..

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PAXMAN: Well therefore it's not extensive, detailed and authoritative is it.

BLAIR: No, it - I'm sorry, their judgement was absolutely clear. Look the one, the one thing you, you can do is go and read it. It said that Saddam Hussein

PAXMAN: I have done.

BLAIR: had chemical and biological weapons. That he could manufacture new stocks of VX and sarin agent within months of doing so. That he could use those weapons against, not just military targets but strategic targets; you can go and read it.

PAXMAN: They said it was limited, you said, 'it was extensive, detailed and authoritative'.

BLAIR: They also made it clear that there was extensive intelligence about Saddam. They said however, of course it's necessarily limited; intelligence always is.

PAXMAN: So was the JIC, the Joint Intelligence Committee Report wrong.

BLAIR: No, they weren't wrong in what they reported at the time, they were absolutely right. But later it transpired that

PAXMAN: It wasn't true.

BLAIR: some, not all of that intelligence was wrong. But the decision I had to take at the time was whether, as a result of that intelligence, we could conclude Saddam was in breach of United Nations resolutions, and I concluded he was, and I may say the evidence is that he indeed was in breach of UN resolutions.

PAXMAN: Well, so when you wrote in the forward to the dossier ' that the threat from Saddam was serious and current', it wasn't. And indeed your own Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, had said that the dossier did nothing to demonstrate a threat.

BLAIR: No, I'm sorry, the evidence that we presented was absolutely clearly set out in the Joint Intelligence Committee Reports. You've had four enquires in to this. We subjected ourself, ourselves as a government, me as a Prime Minister, to a more extensive enquiry than any government has ever given, and what I'd simply ask people to do, instead of continually attacking my integrity over Iraq, I've never disrespected people who've taken a different point of view. But I had to take a decision in the best interests of the country. I took that decision, I cannot, I'm afraid apologise for having taken it, I believe still it was the right thing to do. I understand the fact

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PAXMAN: Despite the fact there were no weapons of mass destruction.

BLAIR: that I disagree with Yes because

PAXMAN: And you told us there were.

BLAIR: the, the legal case was the, the breach of United Nations resolutions, the evidence from the Iraq Survey Group, is that he was indeed in breach of UN resolutions, and incidentally, it wasn't just us in Britain that concluded. No, hang on a minute. It wasn't just us in Britain that concluded he had WMD, the entire United Nations concluded that, which is why they passed resolution 14.41.

PAXMAN: Did you see the Foreign Office legal advice which said, 'that military action against Iraq would be illegal without a further UN resolution'.

BLAIR: No, I had the Attorney General's advice to guide me. But again, this is, this thing has been built in to you know a

PAXMAN: Did you see. You didn't see that Foreign Office advice saying that an invasion would be illegal without a second UN resolution.

BLAIR: No, because I had the Attorney General's advice.

PAXMAN: You didn't see it.

BLAIR: Yes. I didn't see it. But I had the Attorney General's advice, and the Attorney General, made it absolutely clear that provided that we could show that there were breaches of the United Nations resolutions.

PAXMAN: The Attorney General is a political appointment Prime Minister, shouldn't you have seen the Foreign Office legal advice.

BLAIR: But the Attorney General's advice is, is the advice he gives us, as the Law Officer. He acts in an independent way in doing that.

PAXMAN: Do you accept any responsibility at all for the dead of Dr David Kelly.

BLAIR: Aah (pause) It was a terrible, terrible thing to have happened. I don't believe we had any option however, but to disclose his name, because I think had we failed to do so, that would have been seen as attempting to conceal something from the committee that was looking in to this at the time. And again

PAXMAN: Do you accept any responsibility at all?

BLAIR: in relation to this.

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BLAIR: No, I, I, I, I've said what I've said, and I feel desperately sorry for his family and indeed for the terrible ordeal that they were put through but as I said at the time, and again this has been gone in to time and time again, I, if we had concealed the fact, cos this whole row was about, erm, the information that as you know, we've been over this many many times, had been given to the BBC reporter, he had then come forward and said to his superiors, this is me, I think it's me who's responsible for having given this story. There was a Foreign Affairs Select Committee Report going at the time, I think if we'd concealed that from people, we would have been subject for a different to a different

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PAXMAN: So, the short answer to the question is you don't accept any responsibility.

BLAIR: type of allocation. Well it's, it's not a question of not accepting responsibility, It is a question of simply explaining the circumstances

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PAXMAN: It's a question to which you could give a yes or no answer Prime Minister.

BLAIR: Yeah, but it's maybe not a question you need to give a yes or no answer to.

PAXMAN: All right, you keep referring to these enquires. The enquiry that you set up under Lord Butler concluded that what went wrong there, was partly the consequence of your style of government, so called 'sofa government' Will your next government, if you have one, be any different.

BLAIR: I don't run a sofa style of government. There were over twenty cabinet discussions of the Iraq war.

PAXMAN: Lord Butler said, 'we are concerned that the informality and circumscribed character of the government's procedures, which we saw in the context of policy making towards Iraq, risks reducing the scope for informed, collective, political judgement. Are we going to see a different style of government in future, if you are in government.

BLAIR: We have a government that involves people fully. I'm sorry, I don't accept that we did not discuss Iraq in a proper way. We did.

PAXMAN: How many times did the Ministerial Defence and Overseas Policy Committee meet in the run up to war.

BLAIR: It didn't have to meet the whole

PAXMAN: It didn't meet at all did it.

BLAIR: Well hang on, it didn't have to meet Jeremy, because we had an ad hoc committee of ministers that were meeting virtually daily at points

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PAXMAN: And that is precisely what Lord Butler criticised.

BLAIR: No, he doesn't criticise that actually, that's completely different from the so-called, 'sofa style' of government. Look, I, look I want to make this point to you.

PAXMAN: Urm.

BLAIR: Because you can go on, over and over and over. About these events that have happened. In the end, I had a decision to make back in March 2003. We had two hundred and fifty thousand UK and US troops now there. We had Saddam not in compliance with UN resolutions. I tried desperately hard to get a second UN resolution. I couldn't get one. Now I had a decision to make, I had a decision to make as to whether to leave Saddam there, in breach of UN resolutions, and end up in a situation with the international community humiliated, him emboldened, or to remove him. I decided to remove him. Now, you can go through these issues about my integrity, my character, the legal advice, cos the legal advice actually, the legal issue was exactly the same as the political issue, or you can accept that in the end, a decision had to be taken; there was no middle way, there was no fence to sit on. I took that decision. Now I know people strongly disagreed with it. I'm sorry, in the end, I had to take the decision as Prime Minister, that I thought was right for the country and I did so.

PAXMAN: The problem is Prime Minister, that the next time the Joint Intelligence Committee come to you and say, we have extensive, authoritative intelligence of a threat or possible threat to this country, we urge pre-emptive action, you won't be able to sell it to the public.

BLAIR: Well let's wait and see if that ever happens and I hope it never does. But I think that people, actually when they look at this, despite all the stuff, because continually this is, this argument is conducted ..

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PAXMAN: Why should they believe you again.

BLAIR: Because in the end, people have got to make a judgement about this. This was not an easy decision to take, it was a hard decision.

PAXMAN: Yes.

BLAIR: I took the decision I thought was right, and if I had not taken that decision, then what. You'd have Saddam Hussein and his sons still running Iraq, you wouldn't have eight million Iraqis going out voting at the polls, you wouldn't have change spreading across the Middle East, as it is. There has been a lot that has happened on the other side of the argument that just occasionally, we should also pay attention to.

PAXMAN: Although those of course are not the grounds on which you told us we should go to war at the time.

BLAIR: The grounds were, the legal case was breaches of UN resolutions. He was in breach of UN resolutions, but again, if I may say, this again has been completely rewritten

PAXMAN: Fine.

BLAIR: afterwards. I spoke about the regime and the nature of reign, regime, continually, because what I said to people was, this is a difficult situation, but let us, if we have to remove them, remove them with a clear conscience, because this is a man responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

PAXMAN: This matters also Prime Minister because during your time in office, you have committed British forces to battle on five separate occasions. On past form, we can expect if you're returned to Downing Street, they might be committed another couple of times in another Blair government. You haven't given George Bush any undertakings about anywhere else in the world have you.

BLAIR: I haven't given him any undertakings about anywhere, and I don't make the decision according to what the President of the United States might want. I make it according to what I think are in the interests of this country, and if you look at the military action we've taken, in respect of Kosovo, right, well we could have opted out of that too, but look what happened in the early 1990s when hundreds of thousands of people died in the Balkans. We took military action in Afghanistan, look at the democratic election that's happening there. We took the action in Iraq and I explained that already. We took the action in Sierra Leonie where we saved a country' democracy from a gang of murderous gangsters, you know and, and am I going to do - no, I'm sorry, I, I think we can be proud of what the magnificent British Armed Forces have done, and those decisions, some of them, particularly Iraq, were very difficult.

PAXMAN: While we're on defence Prime Minister, the British independent nuclear deterrent is going to need replacing, probably a decision that has to be taken in the next government that takes office after May 5th. Will you replace it.

BLAIR: Well we've got to retain our nuclear deterrent, and we've had an independent nuclear deterrent for a long time. Now that decision is for another time, but in principle, I believe it's important to retain our own

PAXMAN: You're committed to

BLAIR: independent deterrent.

PAXMAN: continuing independent nuclear deterrent.

BLAIR: I believe that is the right thing for the country, I think it's important that however we look at all the different aspects of it, any decision hasn't yet been taken.

PAXMAN: And the billions of pounds that involved, you're prepared to make available.

BLAIR: Well we have to see. Cost is, is one aspect to it. But I think it's important this country retains a strong defence at all times.

PAXMAN: Would cost convince you not to go ahead with it.

BLAIR: You just, look, there's no point in speculating about that at the moment, cos we're a long way off taking the decision.

PAXMAN: Just while we're on foreign affairs, there's a new Pope appointed. Do you agree that

BLAIR: Now that's one election I can't comment on I'm afraid.

PAXMAN: Do you agree that condoms prevent the spread of aids.

BLAIR: Yes I do.

PAXMAN: Would you be prepared to tell the Pope that.

BLAIR: Jeremy, I mean, you know, (laughs) I've, I don't know. If I ever have this conversation with him, I'm sure we will talk about how we can do lots of things to help the world, but I, I don't want to, I've got enough issues in my own election, without getting in to his.

PAXMAN: All right.

BLAIR: Okay.

PAXMAN: Let's look at tax.

BLAIR: Urm.

PAXMAN: Before the last election, you made exactly the same promise you're making this time. No increase in the basic rate of tax, no increase the higher rate of tax. No commitment at all on National Insurance. You spoke to us very kindly before that election, and I suggested to you that any reasonable person would therefore conclude that after the election, you would raise the basic rate of National Insurance. You said that we shouldn't make such an assumption, and then you did it. You're not expecting us to fall for that the second time are you.

BLAIR: Well it wasn't a question of falling for it the first time. The fact is

PAXMAN: Well we did.

BLAIR: .. ur, after the

PAXMAN: We took you at your word.

BLAIR: No. Hang on a minute. I was asked the question, is there a reason why, in the government's proposal you should raise National Insurance. I said you shouldn't make any assumption about that at all.

PAXMAN: Urm, wouldn't any reasonable person suppose that you therefore propose to increase National Insurance contributions, that was me - you, 'they shouldn't'

BLAIR: Yeah¿

PAXMAN: And you did.

BLAIR: for exactly the reason I've just given.

PAXMAN: And you did.

BLAIR: Yeah but the therefore was, you were saying to me as I recall it look your spending proposals, mean that you're going to have to put up taxes. Now the reason why we ended up putting a 1% on National Insurance, was because subsequent to the election, we got a report on the National Health Service that said, you're going to have to raise spending by more than you had thought, in order to make sure that you get a proper and full erm, financing of the National Health Service. So the actual commitments - but the commitments. (overlaps)

PAXMAN: But Prime Minister, you had committed before the election to raise the National Health spending to the European average. You made that commitment before the election.

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BLAIR: Exactly. And in the manifesto, what we said was that the commitments we had could be financed by the taxes that had been set aside. What happened after the election was, we got a report that said, no actually, if you want to reach the European Union average, the figures aren't as you supposed they are, you're going to have to raise it further, in order to do that. And that's why we did it, and that's why we've got the 1% National Insurance. Now that was a ¿

PAXMAN: So the

BLAIR: Catch up in the health service, but you know it - that was necessary

PAXMAN: There could be any old report coming along after this election, which will necessitate you raising taxes again.

BLAIR: I think the Health Service is a special case, but look, in, in the end people again are going to have to make a judgement about it. I can't, I can't sit here and write the budget for every year of a, of a Labour government. What I can say

PAXMAN: No

BLAIR: To people is, overall our taxes are actually lower than the European average, and they're lower as a proportion of our national income, than most of the years that Margaret Thatcher was in power.

PAXMAN: You are going to have to raise taxes after the election aren't you.

BLAIR: No, you, you can't say that on the basis of the spending plans we have

PAXMAN: Well you can't give us a commitment, you won't.

BLAIR: Those. Well and actually I didn't, if, if you remember we had precisely the same discussion before, and not just in relation to National Insurance, but other taxes too. And what I said to you then, and I say it to you now, is the spending proposals that we have are adequately catered for, by the tax plans that we've got.

PAXMAN: And there is no question on your watch, of a local income tax ever being introduced.

BLAIR: (takes breath) No. I mean I - well. We, we have a review in to the council tax and what's the right way to replace it, so you can't as it were foreclose options but for, for me the local income tax has always been a problem because it's all very well for the Lib Dems to say get rid of the council tax and everyone says, well that's fantastic, but if you're a two earner or three earner household, you're going to pay a lot more money under local income tax.

PAXMAN: So no local income tax on your watch.

BLAIR: Well, as I say, we've got a review, so I'm not going to, I can't start closing everything off but what I can say to you is personally, and I think I've said this on many occasions, I think there are big problems of local income tax.

PAXMAN: You've promised assistance to those people at the Rover works who will lose their jobs. What is the moral difference between those people losing their jobs and the tens of thousands of civil servants you propose should lose their jobs.

BLAIR: Well one is happening as an immediate redundancy, I mean they've actually been handed their redundancy notices. The other will happen over time and actually we've still

PAXMAN: They've still got mortgages to pay

BLAIR: Of course.

PAXMAN: families to support.

BLAIR: Exactly. Which is why it's being structured over a period of time, so that we can help people, retrain and get other jobs, and the one thing we've done as a government, I think quite successfully, is where ever there are large scale job losses, but Rover is different, you've got six thousand jobs going immediately; jobs in the supply chain going immediately, you should go there and try and support them and and give some support to the infrastructure.

PAXMAN: And what was it in your analysis of what was wrong with Britain that convinced you that what this country needed was forty super casinos.

BLAIR: Well the question is, do you prevent that happening. It's not a question (interject) of do you think it's, this is what the country needs, the question is ..

PAXMAN: Well.

BLAIR: isn't it sensible to have an overhaul of the gambling laws. We'd had

PAXMAN: Despite, you know, you know the social damage that is caused by addictive gambling.

BLAIR: Yeah, but the question, that's not the question. We actually are setting up for the first time a gambling commission that will look in to these issues and make recommendations. People think you can go down the street now and gamble. You can gamble your mortgage away on putting money on a, on a horse or a, you know, take a bet, you can take a bet in the election and do it. The point is, is this type of larger casino, which is a big leisure complex, properly run, is it a disaster for the country; I don't think so. I think that if you look at the evidence of where these large scale casinos have been introduced, it doesn't bear out the opponents case at all, and I might just point out to you that until, certainly the newspapers started running a campaign on this, virt - virtually everyone was in favour of these proposals.

PAXMAN: Can you tell us how many failed asylum seekers there are in this country.

BLAIR: No, I can't be sure of the numbers of, of people who are ur, illegals in this country. For the same reason that the previous government couldn't. Urm, what I can say is that the asylum system has been toughened up and tightened up hugely, and according to the United Nations Commission for Refugees, and not us, asylum figures have fallen by more than a half in the past two or three years.

PAXMAN: Can you give us a rough idea of how many there may be.

BLAIR: I, no point in speculating on that. What I do know is that

PAXMAN: Is it tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. Millions.

BLAIR: I've said, I don't think there's any point in speculating I

PAXMAN: But you have no idea.

BLAIR: Well it's not a question of having no idea.

PAXMAN: Well what is your idea Prime Minister.

BLAIR: What, what you. Hang on, what you can say is, how people are applying for asylum, month by month. How many people are you removing

PAXMAN: Prime Minister

BLAIR: And what is the back log, and we are dealing with all of those issues.

PAXMAN: Prime Minister, you have really no idea of how many failed asylum seekers there are illegally in this country.

BLAIR: I can't

PAXMAN: You don't know.

BLAIR: Because people are here illegally

PAXMAN: You don't know.

BLAIR: It is difficult, for the very reason that

PAXMAN: You don't know.

BLAIR: Hang on, for the very reason that the previous government gave, you cannot determine specifically, how many people are here illegally.

PAXMAN: You have no idea.

BLAIR: What you can say is, here are the number of people that are actually currently applying for asylum

PAXMAN: Yes.

BLAIR: This is the backlog of claims that you're dealing with. And these are the people who are being removed from the country.

PAXMAN: Do you. Do people not come to you and say, we think Prime Minister there may be a hundred thousand or two hundred thousand or fifty thousand, or five hundred thousand.

BLAIR: We it, they, they don't come and say that, what they ¿

PAXMAN: So you have no idea.

BLAIR: do say is. No, hang on a minute. You have an idea of the numbers that are claiming, the backlog, and the numbers that are being removed. Some of those asylum seekers when they fail, and their claim fails, they will go back voluntarily. Now, in the long term

PAXMAN: What's your working assumption.

BLAIR: if you want to deal. I don't make a working assumption about it, what I do is I concentrate on the bits that are absolutely vital to concentrate on, which is - hang on, just let me finish, which is the numbers who are coming in, the numbers we're removing and the backlog. The only long term way of dealing with this issue however, is to introduce the proper controls of borders through an electronic visa regime, and the other thing is identity cards.

PAXMAN: Does the fact that you're unable or unwilling to tell us, indicate that you have in fact lost control of our borders.

BLAIR: No, it doesn't indicate that cos no government has ever been able to say that. What you are able to say however, is here are the measures that we're taking to control it properly, to deal with the abuses, and you are also able to say, which I can say to you very clearly, cos we keep the proper statistics of this, is the numbers that are claiming now and the numbers that we're removing, and the way to get asylum figures down, so that it's only genuine refugees you're taking is, is to do precisely what we've done. Clean up the system, remove the, the tiers of appeal, make sure that people can't destroy their documentation when they come here and improve the removal system. We're doing all of those things.

PAXMAN: And just one final time. You have no figure that you can give us for the number of refused asylum seekers who are in this country.

BLAIR: I'm giving you the information that I've got, and I've answered that question a number

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PAXMAN: A figure, you can't give us any kind of figure.

BLAIR: (fluffs) The, the reason is because some people will return after their asylum claim has failed.

PAXMAN: Right.

BLAIR: So, what you can say

PAXMAN: So you have no idea.

BLAIR: Well it's, what you have is an idea of the numbers that are coming in and claiming, and the numbers that you're removing. Now, those are the two important things to concentrate on.

PAXMAN: Well, what is that number.

BLAIR: The numbers that are coming in now, it's fallen to just over about two thousand a month who are claiming asylum, and that's down from at it's height it was round about eight thousand month. And actually, that is lower than the figure in, in March 1997.

PAXMAN: But it gives us no indication of the, of, of the backlog of course. Can we look at

BLAIR: Well, no sorry, it does give me an indication

PAXMAN: No it doesn't.

BLAIR: No, no, - no Jeremy, excuse me. You can say what the backlog is of claims. The backlog of claims I think is down to round about ten thousand, that's down from sixty thousand that we inherited, right. In respect of removals, there were one in five asylum seekers who failed, were being removed. It's now half of them that are being removed.

PAXMAN: All right. Let's look at

BLAIR: And the answer that I have given to you on the numbers of illegals here, is precisely the answer we have always given, and the last government gave.

PAXMAN: Although you've not given us a number.

BLAIR: Well I, I - I've just explained to you why it's impossible to do that

PAXMAN: Well, let's look at - all right

BLAIR: But what you can do is give numbers for the other things.

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PAXMAN: Let's look at economic migrants. Is there an upper limit to the number of economic migrants who should be allowed in to this country.

BLAIR: Well there's a, a, an arbitrary limit or a quota in my view, but there's going to be a limit set by what your economy needs.

PAXMAN: Well what does our economy need.

BLAIR: And the points. And the points system that we, we're introducing will make sure that only people get work permits, who actually come in ¿

PAXMAN: Well

BLAIR: And we need for our economy.

PAXMAN: What does our economy need.

BLAIR: Well, at the moment, I think - well, I, I haven't got the exact figure off the top of my head but I think it's round about a hundred and thirty thousand come in with work permits, but most of those people will come in, work for a time, and go again.

PAXMAN: Your previous Home Secretary, David Blunkett told us that he saw no obvious upper limit.

BLAIR: No, what he's saying is exactly the same as me. There's no point in setting an - the Tories say, you set a quota and what they say is that parliament will set the quota. Supposing you get a major company that says, I mean here we are, company of law offices here, which is actually connected with a, an American company, supposing they need someone to come in from abroad for a short time. Why, why shouldn't you have them in. The point is to make sure that you have strict controls that mean the only people your economy needs to come in to this country

PAXMAN: Well

BLAIR: Come in to this country.

PAXMAN: But you have predictions of the economic growth of this country. You know roughly what's going to happen with the labour market. Why are you so shy of just putting a rough figure on it.

BLAIR: Well you can take the figures now. I don't think the figures on work permits have changed that much in the past erm, few years. But the reason I shouldn't put a figure on it, is that I don't run every business in the country. Supposing you get a business in the City of London that says, actually, we need fifty people in this specialty, to come in and work here for six months. You'll do tremendous damage to your economy if you start taking out all migrant labour. Or for, even more absurdly for the parliament to come along and say, we parliament suddenly know what the, the, the needs of employers are in the country, it makes no sense to do that.

PAXMAN: Prime Minister, if you are returned to Downing Street on May 6th, can you at least give us a guarantee that within say twelve months of your handing in your cards as Prime Minister, there would be a General Election.

BLAIR: Well I've said I'll service a full term, and you know again I mean I've been over this, and

PAXMAN: But people are entitled to know what they're voting for aren't they.

BLAIR: many many times. Yeah, absolutely that's why I've said

PAXMAN: Or what they're going to get.

BLAIR: I'll serve the full term. Yes, exactly. And they'll get New Labour.

PAXMAN: So that means, by the time there's a new American President coming on his first visit to Britain in 2009, you will still be in Downing Street.

BLAIR: Well if people elect me, but I haven't won the election yet.

PAXMAN: But if you're elected, you will still be in Downing Street in

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PAXMAN: 2009.

BLAIR: I've said I'll serve the full term, and exactly what situation happens then and how you hand over, well you can leave that to a later time. But it's not unknown you know for, for - there are countries with fixed term parliaments

PAXMAN: Oh absolutely.

BLAIR: There are other Prime Ministers who've said, look, this is my, you know this - I'll serve this term but I won't serve another term. I mean it's not, its - I think the public actually has a very clear and sensible view of this.

PAXMAN: Have you told Gordon Brown when you're going to stand down.

BLAIR: No, I've said to Gordon the same as I've said to everyone, urm, if you elect the Prime Minister, you serve the term.

PAXMAN: So if there is any deal between the two of you, it's a deal just in Gordon Brown's mind.

BLAIR: The, you don't do deals about jobs like this. And Gordon and I have actually been working extremely closely together. It's been a great partnership. I hope it's also been a good partnership for the country. I mean we've known each other - for twenty years, and he's been a magnificent Chancellor. He's produced tremendous economic strength in this country, and you know, we can be proud I hope of what we've achieved for the country.

PAXMAN: So this deal is just in his mind.

BLAIR: Well I think you going on about what is in his mind, as far as I'm aware, as I think he was saying this morning, as we sat on the sofa together, that er, you know we were there together to serve as Prime Minister and Chancellor.

PAXMAN: When you look at your time in Downing Street. You came in 1997, you were a young man, you were talking about the

BOTH TOGETHER

BLAIR: Show the old pictures are you.

PAXMAN: No. None of us can really survive that.

BOTH TOGETHER

BLAIR: (unintelligible)

PAXMAN: But you can in, you came in, a young Prime Minister, talking about a young country. Now they talk about how you've got a fake tan. You haven't got a fake tan I take it.

BLAIR: I haven't got a fake tan as a matter of fact you look

PAXMAN: Right.

BLAIR: You look as if you've been sitting out in the sun as well.

PAXMAN: Well, actually I haven't no. I know that's your story but

LAUGHING

PAXMAN: Hang on, here you are, you can't make that claim any more that you're a young man in a young country. Isn't there a point where you think, god it's going to be great to be shot of all of this.

BLAIR: Well I (laughs) Urm. (pause) It's not at the moment cos I still think we've got things to do. I'm not saying the, the irony of this job is that you're less popular as you go on, but in some ways you're better equipped to do the job. And I feel that, that we're just really poised on the Health Service, Education reform, a lot of the stuff we're doing on Law and Order. I think with the economy, there's a whole new series of things we've got to do about science, technology, apprenticeship, vocational skills and you know there's masses for me to do. And that's what gets you up in the morning. It's, it's recognising that whatever ghastly stuff is appearing from time to time in the media, you've still got the energy and the determination to do the job, and then I've limit on, my, my time doing it and then it's for somebody else to take on the batten and and and run with it. But I still feel there's things we've got to do and, and, and I think we can accelerate the change, drive it faster in, in this third term, but we've got to get elected first.

PAXMAN: Tony Blair thank you.

BLAIR: Thank you.

PAXMAN: Well on Friday I'll be talking to Michael Howard, but for now, from all of us here in Leeds, goodbye.

END




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