24 June 2012

Tony Blair on The Marr Show

BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show this morning included an interview with Tony Blair who had left office as Prime Minister almost five years ago (27 June 2007). It is worth watching (42 minutes in):

to hear his views on the euro crisis and its implications for the UK. He was also asked about the Independent on Sunday’s splash ‘How Blair misled Cabinet on Iraq’Subsequently a BBC news webpage covered both topics, stating on the latter:
The former PM also said there was nothing new in the suggestion, in Sunday's Independent, that he had stopped the attorney general telling the cabinet the full detail of the legal concerns ahead of the Iraq war in 2003.  
"No, it's absolutely not true... the notion that Cabinet never discussed this issue is absurd... there is no great hidden conspiracy about this, it was a decision (to go to war). Now some people agree with it, some people disagree with it," he said.
The IoS had based its story on the latest (4th) volume of Alastair Campbell’s diaries, much to the latter’s irritation - according to his blog:
I went into rebuttal mode with reporter Jane Merrick on twitter, pointing out that the text she quoted did not remotely justify the headline.
Marr had started the programme by introducing his paper reviewers, Dambisa Moyo and Mary Anne Sieghart (right below):

followed by a glimpse of Blair about 30 seconds later:

This was an intriguing conjunction for fans of Campbell’s diaries because, on 21 April 1977 (Volume 1), he had entered:
We left for Bury and Bolton and had the creepy Mary Anne Sieghart on the bus, who gave TB a card from her daughter to CB’s annoyance. [*]
followed on 30 April by:
Mary Anne Sieghart had taken to bringing her daughter to the press conferences and she was trying to ask a question. GB ignored her though the two of them [Blair and Brown presumably] went over to talk to her afterwards.
Blair took office on 2 May 1997 (at which point Volume 2 of the diaries starts), and on 9 June Campbell recorded:
I went to [Rupert] Murdoch’s [Head of News Corps] do. There were a few ministers – GB, Nick Brown, Frank Field, DB. JP didn’t want to go. CB was clearly giving the cold shoulder to Mary Anne Sieghart [Times].
Subsequent mentions of Sieghart are merely incidental in this volume and Volume 3. However, in the latest we read that, on 4 October 2002, Campbell
… got a message from Cedric that Charles Reiss [Evening Standard] was picking up a line from Mary Anne Sieghart's [Times] column that GB was ‘insanely jealous’ of TB. TB wanted us to put out a very pro-GB line and make clear he would never sanction such a statement being made. But it was worrying, given he had said those very words, and I wondered to whom as well as to me.
So do we, Alastair, so do we.

By the way it was Sieghart who selected the IoS story for discussion during The Marr Show paper review.

*For normal people: TB = Tony Blair, CB = Cherie Blair; GB = Gordon Brown; and also JP = John Prescott, DB = David Blunkett.

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