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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 September, 2004, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Blair shows no regret
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

Just in case anyone - Gordon Brown for example - was still in doubt, Tony Blair has insisted he is "not the wobbling sort."

Tony Blair speaking to Sir David Frost on Sunday
Tony Blair speaking to Sir David Frost on Sunday

In a wide-ranging interview with Sir David Frost, the prime minister delivered one of his characteristically unapologetic "I'm up for it" style performances which displayed no noticeable sign that he is crumbling under the strains of office or prepared to even consider his position.

He admitted intelligence on Iraq had been wrong, but he again refused to apologise for going to war.

Indeed, he suggested he would still have taken military action even if he had known at the time what he now knows about Saddam's non-existent WMDs.

'Restless'

He bluntly rejected any suggestion he had ever considered quitting, or ever done any deals with Mr Brown, or was thinking about standing down.

And, speaking as delegates gathered for the Labour conference in Brighton, he attempted to set out a positive, forward-looking agenda for the next general election and a third term in government.

"I am restless to do more and to do better. There is a massive amount still to do and I want to do it," he said.

And he listed a series of areas certain to be addressed during the conference.

It is still certain that the row over the war will lead to some angry scenes in Brighton

They included pensions, child care, youth employment, first time home buyers and, inevitably, the public services.

But his optimistic performance came against the background of continuing violence in Iraq and the plight of hostage Ken Bigley which, despite Mr Blair's efforts to move back onto the domestic agenda, are still certain to dominate this conference.

It will make the prime minister's keynote speech, which was set to be forward-looking and upbeat, particularly difficult.

And it is still certain that the row over the war will lead to some angry scenes in Brighton, even if party managers succeed in limiting the room for debate in the conference itself.

Troublesome period

It is also pretty likely the issue of the Blair-Brown relationship will throw another shadow over proceedings.

Ever since his summer break, after weathering what was undoubtedly his most troublesome period in office, the prime minister has taken a new tack.

Anyone looking for signs of regret or uncertainty will peer in vain

He has gone onto the offensive with a series of performances and interviews designed to prove a few things.

First - and this is the one that could still spark the Chancellor's anger - that he is going on through the next election into a third term, possibly even to complete that term in office.

Second, that he has accepted responsibility for the intelligence shortcomings over Iraq, but is not about to apologise for something he still believes was right, and that it is now time to put the disagreements behind him and concentrate on winning the new conflict against global terrorism.

And, lastly, that there will be no slowdown on his agenda, particularly on public service reform.

He goes into the conference aware that he has alienated large numbers of previous supporters over both the war and areas of his domestic agenda.

But anyone looking for signs of regret or uncertainty will peer in vain.

That may well play into the suggestion that he has entered a Margaret Thatcher-style phase in his premiership - a point where he is perceived to have has lost touch with his own people and is not open to criticism.

A very dangerous place for any prime minister to be in.


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The BBC's Mark Mardell
"It is inevitable that news from Baghdad and the whole subect of Iraq will loom large"



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