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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
PM's interview with Andrew Marr
Tony Blair and wife Cherie leaving Downing Street on Friday morning
Tony Blair is being treated for an irregular heartbeat
Prime Minister Tony Blair talked to the BBC's political editor Andrew Marr about how he was to be admitted to hospital to be treated for an irregular heartbeat and his plans to remain in post.

Here is a full transcript of the interview.

As Tony Blair left Labour's Brighton conference this evening [Thursday] he was carrying a secret: a heart flutter which has led him to decide to reveal his vast political ambition.

Q: You had a recurrence of your heart problem. What did it feel like?

PM: Just the same thing; a bit of a sort of fluttering. But I mean it doesn't stop you working and indeed I've been working for the last couple of months since it happened - I'm going to go in and have this routine operation tomorrow [Friday].

Q: So how did it feel? Was it an alarming feeling?

PM: It's not particularly alarming but it's just something you should get fixed and so it's what they call a routine procedure that will be done tomorrow and I've actually...I mean I've had it for last couple of months and it has obviously not impeded me doing my working and feeling fine. But it's as well to get it done.

Q: And what is actually going to happen to you tomorrow?

If I am elected, I would serve a full third term. I do not want to serve a fourth term - I don't think the British people would want a prime minister to go on that long. But I think it's sensible to make plain my intention now

PM: Well [laughs] I don't know since I'm not a medical expert. But it's with a local anaesthetic apparently - anyway it fixes it which is the main thing.

Q: So are you, as you have this operation, considering how long you're going to stay on as prime minister?

Third term

PM: If I am elected, I would serve a full third term. I do not want to serve a fourth term - I don't think the British people would want a prime minister to go on that long. But I think it's sensible to make plain my intention now.

Q: Can I try and just nail it down a little bit. If you're not going to fight a fourth general election you will presumably stand down as prime minister at some stage during that third term, assuming it happens. It takes presumably six months or so to choose a successor and any successor...

PM: Six months?

Q: Well I mean you've presumably got to have some kind of contest inside the party and so forth?

PM: No, I really don't think there's any great problem with this. Look at some point in time there's going to be a leadership election in the Labour Party unless I stay for eternity.

There have been all these stories rolling round that maybe I might stand for election but then stand down - in year one, year two - I'm not going to do that.

The reason I want to stay is to see the job through - I've begun it, I want to see it through

I think if you put yourself forward you've got to put yourself forward for the full term. Now at some point shortly before that election, there's then a change and the leadership procedures of the Labour Party are clear and can be done reasonably quickly.

Q: You're talking about 12 years or so in total - you're talking about longer than Margaret Thatcher?

PM: Well I'm not interested in whether it's, you know, longer or shorter, the question is what are you going to do with it and the question is also can you actually get the consent of the British people to do it. And I think it's... you know the question that I keep being asked is, is it your intention to fight the third term - the answer is yes.

Then I'm asked the next question, well will you serve a full term? - and the answer to that is yes.

And then they say, so you're going to go on and on and on - and the answer to that honestly is no.

The country wouldn't want me to, I wouldn't want me to, my family wouldn't want me to.

Brown

Q: Is it fair to Gordon Brown?

PM: Well I've always said to people that I have a huge respect for Gordon. I said that, I think, in my speech at conference this week..

I've had the recurrence of this thing for the last two months and it's not impeded me, as you can see, in any way

Q: He would love to take over - you're saying, another five years Gordon?

PM: Well, you know, I'm sure people.. you know, there's lots of people who want to do the job and I think he's very, very capable of doing it, don't misunderstand me at all. But the reason I want to stay is to see the job through - I've begun it, I want to see it through.

Q: So it's vote Tony, get Tony - it's not vote Tony, get Gordon or vote Tony, get anybody else?

PM: But I think the only basis... you know, that you can put yourself forward for election is that you are going to do it. You know you can't say I'm going to put myself forward for election and someone else is going to do it. And part of the reason..

Passion

Q: But you could have decided to do a couple of years?

PM: Well you could but then I think the British people would be very uncertain about that.

The point is, I still feel a real sense of passion and conviction about what I'm doing and you know, you can carry - particularly frankly with the heart procedure tomorrow - I mean you can only imagine if I wasn't making it clear, I'm up for fighting a third term, what would be being said. But I think in the end you've got to.

Gordon Brown
I don't think it rules Gordon out in any shape or form at all because he'll be younger than many prime ministers have been if he took over at the end of a third term. I'm not going on and on and on for ever

Q: And you're absolutely clear.

PM: ..got to make your mind up about it and I have done so.

Q: But you're absolutely clear that this heart problem, which has happened before and you're now going to try sort out, presumably under anaesthetic tomorrow, is not something serious enough to affect your performance next week, months ahead, years ahead?

PM: Well, I can only tell you what the doctors tell you and no doubt there'll be a lot of people giving medical opinions on it. But it didn't last year - I mean, I've been... I've had the recurrence of this thing for the last two months and it's not impeded me, as you can see, in any way.

Q: What does it say about the future direction of another Labour Government, that you are determined to stay at the front of it? It effectively rules Gordon Brown out, I would have thought given his age and stuff, from taking over. Isn't this a big statement about the way Labour is going to be?

PM: First of all I don't think it rules Gordon out in any shape or form at all because he'll be younger than many prime ministers have been if he took over at the end of a third term. I'm not going on and on and on for ever.

I'm not being arrogant about it or thinking, you know, this is something - it's my God-given right to do - I don't believe that at all. But I do actually have passion in what I'm doing.

Q: Good luck tomorrow.

PM: Thank you.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch Tony Blair talking about his heart problem



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