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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Blair grilled: At a glance
Tony Blair's monthly Downing Street press conference at a glance:

Elections and Europe

  • Following the success of the Eurosceptic UK Independence party at the European elections, Mr Blair said he did not want to see Britain withdrawing from Europe, but said "no politician can afford to be deaf to the voice of the electorate".
  • I don't believe it's right for us to lose the ability to say 'no' to a proposal on harmonising tax and social security

  • However, it would be an act of "extraordinary foolishness" for Britain to withdraw from Europe, as advocated by UKIP.
  • The prime minister, who is heading to Brussels this week for the inter-governmental conference, said he wanted a Europe that makes Britain stronger and more prosperous, but which recognises UK sovereignty in areas like tax.
  • "I don't believe it's right for us to lose the ability to say 'no' to a proposal on harmonising tax and social security."
  • Mr Blair said he did not dismiss those who had voted for UKIP, although he did not agree with people who wanted Britain out of Europe.
  • "What we will not do is to marginalise Britain in Europe simply for the sake of it," he said.
  • He believed in some areas it was "absolutely essential" for Britain to work with other countries in Europe, to cooperate and to have qualified majority voting.
  • What we will not do is to marginalise Britain in Europe simply for the sake of it

  • People in Europe wanted to see their leaders concentrate on economic growth and prosperity and security, he said.
  • There were genuine, good technocratic reasons for the European constitution, but the creation of a European superstate was not one of them.
  • One of the key things to shake up Europe and be a popular move would be to cut down regulation coming out of Brussels, he said.
  • Immigration and asylum were issues also during the elections.
  • Local elections

  • Mr Blair said Labour had won back seven councils and insisted the Tory results did not mean they would win the next general election.
  • He felt sorry for the "hard working" Labour councillors in Newcastle who lost their seats in the local elections to the Liberal Democrats.
  • "The Liberal Democrats are often able to campaign and get in places, but they don't often hold them for long," said Mr Blair. Once in power, they very often "make a mess of it", he said.
  • Domestic agenda

  • Switching attention to public services, Mr Blair said there had been "real progress" on the NHS, education and law and order, with a strong economy and more people in work.
  • "We want to take all of this further. Now is not the time for a change in direction ... but a change in gear," said Mr Blair, promising more details of reform plans over coming months.
  • People wanted to know that the programme upon which Labour was elected in 1997, which included pledges for a strong economy, banishing mass unemployment, the provision of public services free at the point of delivery, remained the same.
  • On education, Mr Blair said the specialist school system was "levering up high standards".
  • Crime and anti-social behaviour had dominated the majority of his meetings over the past year.
  • Labour had delivered record numbers of jobs, the biggest ever programme for tackling unemployment and was the only major government anywhere in the Western world that would be increasing health and education spending as a proportion of national income.
  • "Those are actually traditional Labour aims," Mr Blair said.
  • He did not think there would be a "great confrontation" within the Labour party as a result of private sector involvement in the government's public service reforms, he said.
  • Iraq

  • Mr Blair said issues surrounding the Iraq war had dominated the agenda over the past few months.
  • "Iraq was obviously an issue" for some people "because they obviously disagreed with the action".
  • He believed the coalition was right to take military action against Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power.
  • Iyad Allawi was someone who was chosen by the United Nations to be Iraqi prime minister because he was the "best person" to do the job.
  • Middle East

  • Mr Blair said if he had any plea of real urgency, it would be that the Palestinian/Israeli issue should be moved forward.
  • It was important that all parties try to take first steps to get Israel and the Palestinians back on to the Road Map peace process.
  • Other issues

  • Britain is doing "everything we can to coordinate" humanitarian aid for Darfur in Sudan, said Mr Blair.
  • He did not see it as "sinister in the least" for people to fly the flag of the Cross of St George during Euro 2004.

    VOTE 2004 IN-DEPTH


    Blair's big task
    Labour leader needs to reassure his MPs after European election disappointment




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