Alastair Campbell vs Tony Blair: Will Corbyn Become Prime Minister? | GQ Politics | British GQ



Right, Tony Blair, here we go. Do you remember the last time
I interviewed you? – No, was it very memorable?
– It was 1994 on breakfast television
when you were running to be leader of the Labour Party.
And my first question was "Do you think you're tough enough
for what lies ahead?" Well I suppose I had to say yes,
you could hardly say no to that question
– You did, you did say yes Yeah, but what… are you exactly
the same person now as you were then? No, you're never the same person
because you learn. I think you're the same intrinsically
– So have you changed? How much have you…
how have you changed since 1994? Because I've, you know, gone through
three years of being leader of the opposition, ten years
of being prime minister, and then you know, ten years out in the world,
so you change because you're learning all the time – Do you think fundamentally
you're the same person? – I think I'm fundamentally
the same person, yes, still… still got the same values, still got
the same hopes. I'm still basically optimistic,
and still very committed. What… how hard has it been to go
from being very popular, particularly in 1997 to somewhat toxic, and in
some parts of the world hated? Yeah, it's hard, because it's all about
coming to terms with the fact that when you're running for power
you can be all things to all people but when you actually achieve power
you're got to make decisions and when that happens, and the process
of government is your life, then yep, you become much less liked. – But when you left, when you stopped
being prime minister, you're the only prime minister ever
who left the House of Commons to a standing ovation, right across
the piece. So actually the…sort of …toxicity, it's followed that,
as opposed to happening… I mean, I know that there was a lot
of that during that time but it's got worse since you left.
– No, the only difference is, I mean, I have had people attacking me
all the way through when I was being prime minister, and then particularly,
you know, post-2003 obviously, the decision on Iraq. But all the way
through that latter period of government, I mean papers
like the Daily Mail started around 2001 and, you know, then after I left,
when I was in office I was still out there, answering.
– Right, so why did you stop doing that when you left?
Was that to help Gordon? (laughs) No, but because you're then,
you're no longer in office, and so… But Bill Clinton never stopped
communicating, did he? And he… And you did seem to make a
strategic decision just to, kind of, get out of it. And then you allowed
others to define who and what you are. Yes, that was definitely a mistake,
er, because the truth is, if you read what I've been doing the last
ten years, you'd think I'd just been going around the world making money,
when in fact I've spent the vast bulk of my time either in the Middle East
or in Africa, or doing the things I really believe in and concentrate
on, and now in this new period of my life I've got to rectify that…
– So why did you stop, why did you stop
being political about it? – Because I, in a sense I felt,
you know, there was no point in me trying to participate still in
British politics… – Was that a mistake?
– No, I don't… – Was that about letting Gordon
get on with it? Partly. Certainly. And…but also
because I wanted to get out… I felt the best contribution
I could make was out in the world, so I started this initiative on
Africa, er…which has, you know done great work and is doing
great work in a great different… African…in fact, it'll probably be
soon ten different African countries with teams of people on the ground
to make, help me make big change helping these countries develop,
er, you know the foundation that I started that was around religious
coexistence and tolerance is now in 20 different countries.
And even though it's been very tough in the Middle East I've spent an
enormous amount of time there. When I go back to Israel next week
it'll be my over 250th visit since leaving office. So, you know,
I have a…I had a belief that the best thing for me is to be out
in the world and to do the things that I was doing. Now, the single
biggest thing that comes upon you when you leave office is you lose
the infrastructure. – Mmm
– You know, when you're prime minister or president, then the state
provides the infrastructure. When you leave, you've got to build it
and you've got to finance it. – Do you still see yourself on
that kind of level? Do you still see yourself as a sort of
prime minister-type figure? No, I mean, I don't see myself
like that, but I still see myself as very politically active and
politically committed. I mean, I could have done what the parody
of me was, which is go round the world and make money, that would have
been the simple thing. – You said the reputation sort of
went south after you left. – Yes, I mean…
– And how much of that, do you think was about Iraq and how much
was about money? Er, both. Er, but it was I think
also because people didn't really know what I was actually doing. – And you just decided not to bother
explaining. For quite a long time… – I did explain, by the way, as much
as I could, but you… – You didn't really.
– Well I… I did but you're in a.. you don't have the same, you know,
you don't have the same instruments at your command. And you know,
what I always say to people who are about to leave office, is the thing
you've got to understand when you leave office is you're no longer
the first person in front of the microphone.
– Yeah – So you no longer shape the agenda,
the agenda is shaped by others, and essentially, for example,
in the Middle East, it has in many ways suited the next
generation to say, well look, all the problems are really because
of those guys, because actually the decisions in relation to Syria,
or, erm…you know, the Middle East more generally are
incredibly difficult. Now, they're actually difficult for reasons that
are as much to do with the Arab Spring and what happened in 2011 as
anything we did, but it kind of you've got into this thing where
people were saying, look all these problems they've all arisen
because of your decisions. – Who…so who would you say has
done this post-power politics well? Could be American or British or
French or German, who's done it well? Erm…I think Bill Clinton did it well.
– So, and…are you surprised that George Bush has just sort of
vanished and gone up to spend time with his paint?
– Well he hasn't really, he's actually I think he's done it extremely well,
by the way. – Because?
– Because he has immersed himself actually in…he has a…erm…
a foundation and a library that does excellent work not least in Africa.
Erm, he works a lot with veterans. Erm, and that has become a big part
of what he does. He has chosen not to go out into the world and…
You know, what I decided to do was that I wanted to create an
organisation, and we have 200 people employed, and you know, it's a big
organisation for someone to create – Yeah
– On their own like that. And you know, as I say,
the work we do is fantastic. So, I haven't explained that
properly. I think now that we're starting the new institute where
we've brought everything together and we're starting this new strain
or new pillar of work which is around what is the modern progressive
agenda, how do we fight back against the populism left and right that
distorts politics today. I think that will give me a better
voice and a more natural political voice. And that's what I…
I will, you know, I'll spend a lot of time doing.
– And do you have to keep earning loads of money to do that?
– Well, you have to raise enough or make enough to be able to
support it. Because, you know, if you start employing 200 people
that's a big wage bill, and you need office premises and…you know, things
that come with a big organisation. – Just about Bush…do you feel,
you know, on Iraq, the Americans provided 95% of the, kind of,
military contribution. We were relatively small. You seem to get
more flak on Iraq than George Bush ever does. – Yes, but that's because, I think,
the Americans take a different view. Er…and you know, they…I think
there's a more…there's a much more textured view of what is happening
in the Middle East, the complexities of it, the difficulties of it.
And you know, there is at least a significant part of opinion there
that would say, well, whatever the difficulties and the mistakes,
we wouldn't be in a better place today if we'd left Saddam there.
– Do you still believe that? – Yeah, I personally believe that.
I mean… Do you never sit down and think,
oh my God! Why did we do that? No, I don't think that, but I do, and
have, always accepted responsibility for the failures on intelligence.
You know, we were given information that turned out not to be correct… – But that was the only reason why
you went in. – No, no it wasn't the only reason
we went in… …for the failures of planning.
What I can never do, which is what people want me to do, is say it
would be better if it had never happened. Because I…I don't
accept that. I think when you look at the Middle East today, I mean
look, I am out in the Middle East twice a month, I have a far greater
knowledge than I used to have. The biggest reproach I make to
myself all the time is that our knowledge of the depth of the
religious, ethnic problems in the Middle East was inadequate and
insufficient. – But that's quite a big admission.
– It is a big admission. But I've admitted it many times.
– Mmm And so when people think, I think
they think sometimes that I have no humility in relation to this,
I have a huge amount of humility. The one thing I won't accept is that
it's better if you leave these dictators in place, because it isn't
and what the Arab Spring shows you is it wouldn't work anyway.
And the truth of the matter today in the Middle East has been one of
the reasons I spend so much time on it, is that it's a struggle for
religious tolerance and new-based economies. And that is what
the whole of the issue in the Middle East is about, and it's why
we've got a massive strategic interest in supporting those modernising
elements in the Middle East. And there are many today.
– But what about… – Because it will affect our own
security ultimately. – Right. But you never, sort of,
lie awake at night thinking, God, I wish to fuck we'd never done it.
– I don't think…I don't think that. But of course I go over constantly
the decisions that were taken and the consequences of them,
as you should do. But, you know, in the end you can…
there is no point in me, you know… I always say to people I'm really
sorry if this is such a problem for you, you can't listen to anything
I say, and I'm really sorry about that. Deeply sorry. But I can't…I can't
undo what I've done, it's… – No, how did you feel when…
– We're now, what – we're now… what is it? 2017…
– It's 14 years on… – 14 years on.
– How did you feel at the unveiling of the Iraq-Afghanistan memorial
when you had families saying you shouldn't be there? This is the situation, if I hadn't
been there people would have been saying it was…
– No, I accept that. – It was disrespectful…
– I accept that. But how does that make you feel, that…there was
that amazing picture on the front of The Times of you…you sort of
looked quite haunted that day. They just take the picture.
– No, I know that. But you know… – I mean, you know how it works…
(laughs) – Well I do, but do you…when
you hear a relative of someone who's been killed in Iraq saying
'Tony Blair shouldn't be there…' – Of course I think it's very…
– How does that make you feel? It makes me feel sad for them
and for the situation, but… – How does it make you feel for you?
– For me it's the same. I mean you… Look, you're never going to
take a decision like that, where you don't have people that feel
very deeply about it, and if you lost your loved one, and you decided
that this was done on a false basis or a basis that makes you question
the integrity… – You're talking about Iraq. The war
in Afghanistan is still going on. – Yes but we…we… I do get it…
– You don't. – No I do actually.
– Do you? – Yes. You do.
– Kosovo? You don't get it. Sierra Leone? You don't get it.
– Yeah but we didn't take casualties in those conflicts.
– Mmm – And…
– Kosovo? – No. Kosovo. I mean there were, erm…
there was a casualty in respect of Sierra Leone, but it's not of the same
– Right – It's not of the same nature. And also
what people feel – people have not yet come to a view about those
conflicts that is…that…that… is as it were settled, right? And some
people are settled in their view that it would be better if we'd
never gone into these places. Now, that's not my view but
I understand the other point of view and if you feel that very strongly.
– Kosovo…Kosovo worked Sierra Leone worked. People feel
that Iraq hasn't – that the basic problem. And they feel – and I
know this it nonsense – but they feel that we lied about going to war.
– Yes but you can't…you can't… if someone, you know there have been
now six different enquiries that have found that there were…
there was no deceit, there was a decision. You know,
people are going to carry on saying it was all lies and there's nothing
I can do about that but… let me just make the point which
is really important. The reason why it was easier in Kosovo and Sierra Leone
is that you didn't have in those conflicts the…erm..
interference of radical Islamist ideology.
– Mmm – Which you had in Iraq and Afghanistan
and that today… – Is that something that we
underestimated? – Yes of course, and that's why I say
the reproach I make is not often what people reproach me for,
it is that we didn't at that point understand the depth of this
Islamist question, and therefore… – Mmm
– for example, what we thought was that if you remove the dictatorship
and gave people the chance to elect their government, then they would
do that, and the rest is the matter of reconstructing the country.
Now, by the way the people did have their election and they did decide
that they wanted a free country – But we would have…
– And then we had… – Ah, but you…
– No but, hang on, let me… Then we had the interference in the
case of Iraq from Iran on the one side and from Sunni extremism on the other
and that is what destabilised the whole thing.
– Right, but I remember that at the time, you used to be worried
about this kind of hornet's nest argument…
– Yes – So you were worried about it,
so do you accept that, as it were, we prodded the hornet's nest
without really knowing what was going to…what the consequences
might be? So therefore, was that still
the right thing to do? No, we underestimated the consequence
of what happened when you removed the dictatorship.
The only thing I say is what the Arab Spring teaches you is that
all of these dictatorships were going to come under pressure and be
toppled in the end. – Right.
– Which is what happened. – So, so Assad…what are the lessons
then from that, to what's happening now in – say- Egypt? And in Syria?
– Well it's…so when the Arab Spring began, what I said to people was
be very careful, because you've been through a situation in Iraq and
in Afghanistan where you've removed the dictatorship.
But then the problems begin. So if you can evolve a transition,
do that. So my view was in respect of Syria, and in respect of Libya, it
would have been better to have agreed a process of transition.
So if you could have cut a deal, which I think was possible maybe
to have done with Gaddafi, to get a transition it would have
been better like with Assad.
Now, then having said you wanted them to go, then you had to
go and get them out. – Right.
– And the problem with what we've done in Syria, is that we've insisted
that he go, but not actually make him go.
– Mmm – And…the inevitability therefore
of a civil war as a result of that.. is…was I'm afraid to me very clear.
He was going to fight to stay, and then what happened was
the Russians, the Iranians, came in on his side and propped him up.
But, it…you know, there is…I mean what has happened in Syria is
in my view…I mean a…a… you know, a hideous blot on
Western foreign policy. I mean, you know, this is…
– So Obama, Cameron et al have to take some responsibility?
– Well, I'm not going to start allocating responsibility because
I know what it's like to take these decisions, but the fact is that
in Syria, and this is why I say, you know, if you had left Saddam
in place in Iraq, you'd have had exactly the same problem.
I mean the Arab Spring would not have stopped at the borders of Syria.
It would have gone to Iraq for sure. None of these dictators were removed
in the period between 2003 and 2011. All of them were either removed or
came under pressure, as in Yemen and Syria and it would have happened in Iraq.
And indeed in my view there is a case for saying you would have had a much
worse situation, because in Syria you had essentially a Shi'a-backed
minority keeping out the Sunni majority, and in Iraq you had
a Sunni minority keeping out a Shi'a majority.
– Ok, erm…as you know unlike like you I see a psychiatrist regularly for
my madness – (laughs)
– and I have…. – So have you asked for your money back?
– I have two recurring dreams that.. in one of them you and Gordon, er…
are trying to kill each other. And I have to try and resolve it.
And I do have a recurring dream about soldiers being blown up. Ok? Er…
which may be about my brother having been a soldier, but it may
also be about Iraq and the sort of impact that's had on me as well.
Do you dream about it? – No.
– So what do you dream about? – Lots of different things that I'm
not going to… – You don't dream about stuff that
you might think, oh that would probably be about Iraq.
– No, I think about these things a lot of course, but I also think, you know
you got…if you're going to be prime minister of the country,
I think it's really important people understand this,
your job is to take the decisions that you think are right for
the country. That's your responsibility.
– Mmm – And the moment you shy away from taking those decisions because you
think you're going to get criticised and attacked, life may be easier
but you are feeling in the principal responsibility of the
leader, which is to take the decisions. – Mmm
– And…you know, so I took a decision post 9/11 that we should be with America, that we were going
to be with America, that this was important for global security.
I also took a very strong view about this extremism and how we
have to deal with it. Now, I may have been wrong, but
I did what I thought was right. And that's my responsibility, so
I don't, as it were, agonise over having taken the decision because
I know what I did was what I thought was right.
– Right. – Of course you agonise over the
consequences – What do you do about it?
– That's my business and… – Well yeah but, you know…
– No, no I love you, I'm not, you know You get back on the couch with your…
– Ok no we just do it sitting like this We just sit like this.
– Right erm… – Trump.
– Without a camera maybe (laughs). – Trump. I dreamt about Trump
the other night actually. He told me to stop playing my bagpipes.
I told him to fuck off. Er, Trump makes Bush look like a
sort of genius, doesn't he? Look, I have to work with American
administration, American presidents. – You don't have to.
– I do, because I'm doing the Middle East. – Right, but you…
– And that's extremely important to me. And so I'm not getting into a
situation of slagging off the American president. It's not what
I've done so far in my life… – Ok but…but you know, people are
entitled to know what you think about things.
– Well, I don't know if they're entitled to know, but they're
entitled to ask. – Ok, I'm entitled to know.
I want to know! – I don't think you're entitled to
know either (laughs). – I want to know that you…you
can't work with Trump. You cannot work with Trump. – Look, I made a… – If Trump phoned you up now and
asked you to do the job that the court asked you to do, for example,
if Trump asked you to do that would you do it? Er…no, I've made it clear, not only
have I not asked for a job. That was just one of these plastic,
sort of Mail inventions… – Fake news
– Erm, right. Erm, and I don't want, because what I do in the Middle East
I do independently and it's very important to me to keep my
independence because it gives me a relationship with the key players,
Israelis and Arabs. Because my view is that the only way you're going
to get a peace agreement today is through Israelis and Arabs
working together on this and not just Israelis and Palestinians.
– But what happens when he comes along and says that
two-state solutions are all we have – Well he hasn't said that actually.
And by the way… – What's his view then?
– No, no their view is actually very traditional and the American
view is there should be two states, a Palestinian state…
– So what did he say when he said… He did say that…
– No, he said what he said at the press conference…
– In the campaign – No, in the press conference
actually, but the fact is the Americans are
operating on the basis of the two-state solution. – So you don't share my, sort of,
terror – that this guy is the president of America? And that
actually the…the comparisons with Hitler and Stalin are not terribly
overdone? That this very… it took Hitler a long time to go
for the journalists and the judges. It took him about a week.
– No. The comparisons with Hitler and Stalin are ridiculous.
– Right. – I'm sorry…
– Ok… – Yes, they are ridiculous. However,
as I said, I think openly, erm during the campaign, I would have backed
Hillary. Right? – Right. – So that's where I am. And you can
assume from what I think and what I believe what my views are.
But for me, because I'm working on this issue, I will judge them on
what they actually do. – Right, but your connection with the
Trump administration – you've met Jared.
– Uh-huh – Er, and that was just about
the Middle East, or was that sort of just – Yeah
– Right ok, and so your connection with them is that you are going to
stay active in the Middle East peace process, and therefore you
want to work with them on that. But if he actually said,
you know, I quite like that Tony Blair guy, he seems to know what he's up to
– Well I don't think he… – He might do
– has said that or would say that – But do you know he's a problem
that you know, look – we alluded to this, we got accused of lying the whole
time even though we didn't, but this guy does lie all the time.
– Yeah but Alistair, I don't want to I've got enough issues. You know,
when you meet, you've got to choose the issues you want to get into
– Right – Right. Now, there is…
one of the reasons I'm doing this whole new strain of work is
to push back against the rightest populism, some of which obviously has
echoes in the campaign that brought him to power.
– And the government – However, right, however, for me I'll
judge him on what actually happens and, erm…
– But do you need… – For me, in the Middle East I'm
going to carry on working. – Right ok but America is like,
we may have this so-called 'mother of all parliaments' which
being so useless on Brexit, but America is like the most powerful
democracy in the world and it's now at it's head got somebody who is,
you know, a liar, a misogynist, racist, sexist, er…that's quite tricky.
And you who are in positions of leadership I think people should, sort of,
call that out. Yeah, well where there are things
I profoundly disagree with I will, and have.
– Right. So, what's he done since he became
president that you profoundly disagaree with? So, for example when all that stuff
on immigration happened. I was perfectly prepared to be
critical, but so.. I've not got a problem with doing
that on individual issues, what I'm not going to do, because
I actually think: a- let's see what really happens, and
b- I am engaged in something which – Ok
– I'm involved in something that I'm going to cooperate with him for.
– Do you…do you… Is there a part of you that thinks
actually that Obama was, er… not great with the Middle East and
that Trump could be? Erm, it's less the former than I
think it's possible that it – this administration goes down the
path that I'm advocating, which is to build a strategic alliance
in the Middle East whose purpose is to fight extremism
– Mmm Whether of the Shi'a sort promoted by
the theocracy in Iran, or of the Sunni sort. i think if they decide
to go down that path, that will be very productive.
So whatever else is happening in the world, and whether you agree
or disagree, and whatever's happening in America,
on the Middle East specifically there is actually an opportunity.
Now look, I know because this is one of the situations you
get into today, where you know, things become so polarised
that if you're…if I'm with a group of democrats in the US and I even
suggest there might be an area which the Trump administration
– Or with me! – (laughs) yeah or you…could do good
people just go mental with you, but the reality is there is an alliance
to be built in the Middle East today around the whole struggle over
religious tolerance, and actually the Trump administration
want to put themselves behind that which they could.
– But this Bannon guy basically thinks for America to reassert
itself you've got to wipe out… sort of…bring China down, and
on the religious front, your sort of Christians as superior to Muslims
and that's… Well I don't know whether he thinks
that or not, but I know that Tillerson is the secretary of state,
Mattis is the secretary of defense and McMaster who's the national
security adviser don't think that. Right. So we're in a position
basically where we've got to kind of hope these guys do the
right thing, because we're worried Trump might do the wrong thing.
– No, I think we're just in a situation of saying let's see, let's
determine the character of this administration finally by what
they do. Ok. And when he, sort of, started
that thing about, you know moving the embassy, and…
did you not think 'oh my God do these people know what they're
doing?' Yeah, but I'll just point out to you
that the embassy has not, in fact moved – Ok, alright ok
Would you, erm, would you have – I know you're not the prime minister but were you Theresa May and you
went on that first visit, I mean did you not think that offering
Trump a state visit when he's barely been elected was like
an act of utter sycophancy, and… – You know you're…you're (laughs)
– Wait a minute…an insult to Her Majesty The Queen, for whom
we both have enormous fondness? Er, no she's perfectly entitled to
get alongside the American president Yeah that's fine, but a state visit?
– Oh come on Alastair – What?
– Now you've sort of elevated the… I mean…
– No but seriously, a state visit is a major diplomatic chip. And we
don't have many at the moment. – Yeah…yeah…
– It is – with him. Gold carriage with the Queen down The Mall
– I know but… – But apparently it's going to be in
Aberdeen now because nobody wants it to come here. – (laughs) Look, are we talking about
my prejudices or your prejudices? (laughs) I want to know
what you think. Look, what I think is… – Would you have gone, would you
have…we would not have sat down and said 'right, new president – not
sure about him – state visit.' You wouldn't have done that.
– Oh come on – You wouldn't
– No Alastair, honestly When George Bush came in we made
every effort to get alongside him straight away.
– Absolutely – Right, so come on.
– Based on values. – Yeah but also based on the fact
he was President of the United States Come on, we all thought, we though
Al Gore was going to win the election if you remember. – Yes I do.
– Right, so – Right
– And by the way there were, there were people who were horrified
at the prospect of George… – So you would have probably gone along
and given Donald Trump a state visit Well I have no idea whether I would
offer him a state visit, but I'm not going to criticise her for
getting alongside the – Ok, ok…
– American president and I think she's entitled to do that.
And in any event it's important the British prime minister
and the American president have a good relationship.
– Ok – Do you remember our very first
meeting with Vladimir Putin? Do you remember what you said
after it? Er…you see, you can…because you
keep these damn diaries, – (laughs)
– you remember all these things. – I don't remember it
I recorded it. – I mean, I remember the first time –
I think it was when we went to… Well actually, the first time I met
Vladimir Putin… – The first time he came to
Downing Street before he was president and as he left you said
'I think he's going to be ok' – Yes. Er, he was…
– Stand by that…judgement? – I stand by the judgement of the time
because actually at that point it was very clear he wanted to point westward.
I remember our first meeting in St. Petersburg, which was immensely
successful. Erm…you know
– It was a disaster, wasn't it? – Well, I don't…
– Or are you going to defend him as well now?
– No, I'm not going to do… – Trump's good, Putin's good…
– I didn't say that…(laughs) – Assad…leave him alone – No (laughs)
– So, Putin. – So, of course I know now…
– The […] out of the world I think this resurgent Russian
nationalism, I understand it… I understand what motivates it.
I'm not sure we have always…in fact I'm sure we haven't always made
the right overtures to try and bring Russia on side with us.
But I don't approve of the things they're doing in, er, Syria
or Ukraine, of course. And what about interfering in
American elections? – Yeah, well if they…
– And the French elections and the German elections,
and our elections… Yeah, no I think this is…erm
I completely concur with those people who think this is a bleak time for us.
– So why do you think Trump doesn't sort of, join in that concurrence?
He seems to…rather… – We're done, we're done with Trump.
– Yes, but it's… (laughs) – We've done the Trump business.
– No but why… – Get off Trump and get back onto Putin. – Alright Putin.
– Yeah – But your institute, your institute,
as you said, is in part a response to Trump politics.
– It is partly a response to the politics that brought him to power.
The politics that gave us Brexit. And also to this notion that that
type of authoritarian populism that's represented by the kind of
Putanist concept of leadership… – And which Trump wants to follow.
– Well, I don't know whether he wants to follow that or not.
I sincerely hope not. – But…
– But he does. – I don't think he…
– He's jealous of Trump, isn't he? He's jealous of Putin.
– (laughs) – He is – he's jealous of Putin.
With his parliament, with his media. You don't agree with me?
You don't think he actually looks at Putin and thinks
'I want to be that guy' 'I want to have that power'
– I've no idea but in any event it's not possible in America.
– Well let's hope not. Let's hope not. – No. I think…not…for sure
– Ok – And the real issue for Russia
in the end is can it…can it find its way to make the reforms to
its economy that can strengthen the country and give it a power that
is in the end is going to be… – Right
– going to grow because its base is all power ultimately, you're never
going to end up with a country that's a huge power
– Mmm – without it's economy being in
good shape – Right
– I mean, why is China so much more powerful today, because they
reformed their economy and opened it up.
– Do you know something – because we're all focusing so much
on Russia at the moment, who's economy actually
isn't in great shape, do you think we're slightly missing
the main…the main picture with the Amer…with Trump…
when actually the big thing is going to be Trump's relations
with China. Oh, absolutely. The big thing is going
to be Trump's relationship with China. And actually it could be, er,
it could be good. Erm, the American relationship
with China, I think most people haven't caught up with the fact that
this is the most important relationship of the 21st century, for sure.
– Yeah, yeah, yeah. So Putin is a bit of a sideshow?
– Well he's not a sideshow, because I think it's very important that
China itself develops and evolves in a way politically and economically
which is not based on the Putin model. – Right. And Trump, er I know we've
done Trump… – (laughs)
– I know we've done Trump. Wait a minute, no…
– Let's do him again (laughs) – No alright. There's a Putin,
there's…have you read that book by that guy Pomerantzev, Nothing is true
and everything is possible? Which is about Russia.
But actually this whole fake news thing and the way that Trump is, kind of, handling the media, it's about
trying to do that. He's trying to de-legitimise
any source of information other than himself and his
ridiculous Twitter feed. Which Putin has done by kind of throwing
people in jail. And invading countries and saying
you haven't invaded them. Blowing up planes and saying
you didn't. And killing people on the streets
of London and saying you haven't. – Yeah but I think it's…it is…
different. In a very crucial way actually.
I mean look, I think there is… and so do you…I think there's
major problem with the way the media operates in the West.
Which is becoming polarised and partisan.
And, you know… Not everything Trump says about
his media coverage is unfair. Not everything, but he goes beyond
anything that the world understands – Yeah, no I agree he goes beyond it,
but I think we've got to be very clear you know, the left media finds it
very hard to be objective on Trump. Now my point is different.
My point is, the right-wing media is brutal towards progressive politicans.
– Mmm – And so in other words you've actually
got a media today that is completely partisan. – Right, with the right line more than
the left in general, I think. – Erm…they're far more…
– The Daily Mail, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph are worse
than The Guardian and The Mirror. They are far more brutal and
aggressive. Fox is worse than CNN. They are far more brutal and
aggressive, but the fact is it doesn't actually help our cause
to be partisan, precisely for the reasons you give.
Because in the end what happens is that they are so much more
brutal at it and aggressive at it than we are. And the trouble with
aggressive politics always is that we are perfectly happy to
turn on our own, where they basically defend their position
very strongly. Mmm ok. How are we going to stop
this ridiculous Brexit thing? (laughs) What we've got to do is to
mount an effective, coordinated campaign that has a very very simple
message at the heart of it. – Which is…
– And that's stop Brexit, it's not mess around with it, and it's
not, sort of soft-hard it's actually 'this thing is wrong,
it's bad for the country therefore we have to do all we can
to try and stop it.' – It's at this moment to say
the option of changing your mind is open to you – right?
– Uh-huh And don't let anyone tell you
it isn't. Because what the right-wing
media cartel and the government are trying to do, is to create
a sense not just of inevitability, but of the, er, impropriety of even
discussing what should happen when we don't yet know the terms
and when it's clear that when Theresa May said
'Brexit means 'Brexit' she actually means Brexit at any cost
– Mmm In whatever circumstances and we now have this extraordinary
situation in which we're saying 'we're going to become a great
global trading nation and we're going to start by
withdrawing from the biggest global trading market
right on our doorstep and we're now trying to advocate
for say, much greater defence and security cooperation within Europe
which is a perfectly good thing but somehow we should be getting
closer to Europe on defence and – I know
– security cooperation, and therefore by the way, pooling our sovereignty.
But when it comes to our economy, where already 50% of our trade is
with Europe, we should be doing the opposite
– I know I mean, it literally makes no sense.
– So it is madness? I mean, I personally think
Brexit is…is… a catastrophe for Britain,
I deeply believe that but I have to accept
there's been a referendum – Right, and does…
– Now, it's really important we phrase this in the right way…
because the truth of the matter is and this is why I've used the analogy
of the house-swap but it's a good analogy;
the fact is we agreed that we were going to swap our house
for another house but this other house, the dispute
about it is a dispute about claims at the moment.
– Mmm You know, we say it's going to be ugly
other people say it's beautiful, ok. We're now going to get the chance
to see, right – we're going to test it we're going to see the neighbourhood
we're going to do the survey we're going to go round it
we're going to look at it and see whether it really
meets our needs or not. Our case has got to be
very very simple Er, it is that if we come to
the conclusion that the gain is very slight,
the pain is enormous, and actually, thanks to the
concentration of Brexit nothing else in the country
has been done properly, we are entitled to change our minds. Right, but the two years,
the inevitability in the two years do you think we'll know –
I mean, I agree with you, I think it's a catastrophe,
I think it's going to be a disaster but do you think that we'll know that
sufficient for people to say yeah, this is not going well.
– Well I think that's a very good question and I'm not sure what the answer is. – And you can't have…
– Because the risk is we only… Look, it's like the currency.
The currency is – what? 15-20% down. – Yeah
– Now, that is not a market correction. That is a prediction by the
international financial markets – That the economy's going to tank.
– Well, that we're going to be that much poorer.
– Yeah Ok. Because that's why they have..
– Right, and you barely read about it – you barely hear about it.
– Right, now that will have an impact on living standards, because
it will have an impact on inflation particularly with the poorest families
and so on. I don't know whether this all
become manifest though but I feel it…there is a good chance
that it will do and I also think the other thing
that we've got to point out to people is when you…one of the reasons
the government has said 'Brexit means Brexit'
and don't question any longer why we're doing this…
– Because they're worried. They're…they're supremely worried
that if you subject their… if you subject the claim that this is
a good idea to analysis, what are you left with?
You're left with EU migration, – Both of them
– And the European Court of Justice It is now absolutely clear that
we want to keep the majority of these EU migrants, that we need them.
So we're actually talking about stopping a very small number of people,
So we're not even dealing with the immigration issue particularly.
And on the European Court of Justice I would defy most people to name
a European Court of Justice decision that they've ever heard of.
– Well they think it's anywhere And if we're going to have a
free trade agreement with Europe, by the way, then we'll also have to
have a disputes resolution procedure – Mmm
– And if that's not the European Court of Justice it's
going to be something that looks like it
– Right. Now, I know you're part of the,
sort of – you know, international union of former presidents and
prime ministers, and you don't like to criticise other members
of that group, but do you not look at Theresa May and think,
1- she fought remain and now has gone hard Brexit, and
2- she must know deep down that what she's doing is wrong for
the future of Britain. And as a prime minister who on Iraq
said 'you do what you think is the right thing' do you not look
at that and just, sort of, feel a kind of certain contempt?
– No I don't think… – Or is this my prejudice again?
– (laughs) No it's not your prejudice It's your opinion and you're entitled
to it. I don't criticise prime ministers
personally – But she's doing the wrong thing,
she's doing the wrong thing. Of course I believe this is
the wrong thing, but you know I'm not going to subject her to
personal criticism, it's not a personal criticism.
She inherited a situation where she believes it's her duty to
deliver Brexit, she believes you know, there's a…I understand
why she believes this. She thinks, and these people think,
that if you reopen this debate you're going to cause huge stresses
and strains in the politics of the country.
– Which is basically the… – And…by the way I understand that
– She's being driven, she's being driven by a Tory rivalry…
– I understand that but… – And the Mail.
– Well, the problem is if you had a vibrant opposition
– Mmm then she would come under pressure
from the centre and from the left as well as from the right.
The trouble is at the moment she's really only under pressure
from the right, from the right-wing media cartel. You know –
The Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph, The Express, who just provided
the ramp for pro-Brexit propaganda pre-the campaign.
And post-the campaign just all… you know – Brexit is good, it's
brilliant, it's going to make the country great. And no other news
that might collide with that is ever published by them.
So she's under pressure from that and from the right-wing of the
Tory Party who say to her look, if you reopen this we're going
to split the Tory Party up again. – Er, do you think if hard Brexit
does go ahead, do you think it's likely that Scotland will become
independent? I don't know. I think it's very
hard to judge. But I think that fact that Brexit
clearly imposes a big strain on the Union, both in respect of
Scotland and actually in respect of Northern Ireland… – Big time
– means that it imposes an even greater obligation on us only to do this
if the gain is substantial, and the pain is not…is not.
– Right And the fact is it's the other
way round. So, you know, to me the…
– And Northern Ireland, I mean I don't know about you, but I just
find the extend to which Northern Ireland – I know you and Major went there, but the extent
to which it barely figured during the campaign or since,
at a time when in Ireland they are seriously seriously worried
about the impact, is… just shows in a kind of la-la land. Well, the trouble with
Northern Ireland is that you know, our generation
remembers pre-peace process in Northern Ireland.
– Yeah, yeah. And knows how terrible it was and…
– Theresa May will remember that. …what a deep mark it left on…
on British politics. But today's generation of people,
I mean… – Yeah but Theresa May is the
prime minister. – it's not been an issue for
20 years. – Yeah. – She went to Northern Ireland
and left the distinct impression she hadn't even given it
much thought. Well I don't know whether she did
or not. But the fact is it's a very difficult thing to work out
how you have a hard border with the EU, which is now going to be
the border in Northern Ireland – Mmm – and remember, you know when we
were talking about trade we have more trade with Ireland
than we do with India… I know, barmy.
The whole thing's barmy. Er, Cameron.
Should never have had a referendum? Look, in the course of the last
election campaign, and this is what shows you how
strange the situation is we're in, I mean, I think I was the only person
who made a speech on Europe in the course of the 2015
election campaign precisely to warn that the
referendum was not a good idea But you know, look, I understand
why he…he felt he had to do that and you know, to be fair to him
he campaigned very hard in the referendum
for the right result, so… Do you never dream…do you ever
dream about Gordon? For God's sake Alastair!
Get off the damn dreaming thing! Do you ever dream about Gordon?
Do you ever dream about Gordon? – No, I'm not…
– That's lie! You must dream about Gordon! Look, you obviously have a problem
with your dreams. So go and… – I don't…alright – I'm not your shrink
– Ok So you've never dreamt about Gordon?
I know you've dreamt about Gordon because you told me about
dreaming about Gordon. – Have I…
– It's somewhere in the diaries. When was the last time
you spoke to Gordon? – Er…a short time ago actually.
– Re? What were we doing? I think
it was Scotland, British politics – You just bump into him at…
– Yeah, and we see each other… When was the last time you
spoke to Corbyn? I don't know.
That's…some time ago I guess. Has he ever phoned you up and said
'Tony, I'm…you used to do this job got any tips? – No, but, you know –
why should he? Well, because you've done the job. Yeah, but obviously we disagree
strongly about the direction of the Labour Party. Do you think there's any chance ever
that Jeremy Corbyn will be prime minister of the United Kingdom? (laughs) I think we've got to
pass on that one. So that's a 'no'? No, it's not a 'no' it's, look… I don't…how do I answer this
without getting into a whole heap of Blair attacks, call them.
I mean, look, I don't… The survey yesterday, 2% of people
think that Blair is not a Blairite. That was good.
– Ha ha ha ha ha – There is…there is a…
– Look, it's no great secret that I obviously think the Labour Party
has gone in profoundly the wrong direction since I left
in 2007, so, and… – But right, the way that the people talk
is that, I keep hearing… Oh well, we're just going to have to
lose the election and then rebuild. But we might lose the election
and get wiped out. I know, it's a big mistake
to think that, yes. So we could get…this could..
we could be seeing the end of the Labour Party. – Well…
– As a serious credible political force. – I don't know, but what I'm
very very clear about are two things No.1- if people think you can just
go into the next election lose it heavily and come out
and rebuild…there may be no bottom to this market
so this is a very very dangerous course indeed
– Yeah And secondly, because of Brexit
it's a betrayal of our duty to the country we're not offering
a competitive opposition. I mean, we've got to do that, so… Look, I know my desire is for the Labour Party to recover itself.
I mean, I'm not going to get into attacking Jeremy Corbyn as the
leader of the Labour Party… people understand why…
whether I think this was a good idea or not.
I said before the leadership election I thought it wasn't. But I'm not
going to…I don't want to start attacking him because actually
I think this has gone beyond being about him.
– Mmm This is about the direction of
the Labour Party. If the Labour Party is going to
win power again, it's got to own the future
– Right. Do you think… And that's how it's always won…
– Ok but right, politics is a continuum I did a piece for GQ a few weeks ago
about Corbyn, and in it I said there is part of me that thinks,
well Tony begat Gordon begat Ed, begat Jeremy.
Do you think there's something in that? Do you think we sort of started this? No, because I think we were always
very clear about our own position But good that we paved the way
for Gordon? We changed a bit? And then Ed came in,
he changed a bit more. Yeah, but Gordon was in a supremely
strong position to become the leader of the Labour Party So…no, I think rather than go back
over the personalities of it there's a much, much bigger question,
which is about the future of progressive politics.
– Right. And I think the progressive political
position only wins when it build out from the centre and when
it has policies designed for the future – But that's been rejected
– and…it has been rejected, the Labour Party.
And we can see the result. We lost in 2010.
We lost even bigger in 2015. And now we're 15 points adrift
in the middle of a Tory government losing safe Labour seats to the Tories.
So you know, the one thing I find really weird about the present
situation is when the people who are presently running things
ascribe their defeats to those of us who won victories.
– It's quite bizarre But all I can say to people in
the Labour Party is if you want to get back into a
position of being a competitive opposition with a
chance of winning power you've got to go back to the centre
– Mmm definitively and clearly
and you've got to have policies that address the future.
And this is the…you know it's like Do you not argue for a return to
New Labour? New Labour – you've got to demistify
New Labour All New Labour was… Do you not think the centre
has been rejected? No, I don't think the centre is
rejected by the people – Right
– I mean, I think…look in 2015 Cameron won from essentially
a centre-right position – Mmm
– You know, if you… – What do you say…you keep
saying this thing about , right… if we're going into the next election
with a hard Brexit Tory I think actually quite hard,
out-UKIPing UKIP Tory leader and a hard left leader,
you've got millions of people who are politically homeless.
Surely the logical conclusion of that is that what's happening –
the churn in politics at the moment can only be broken now by some
sort of new political force emerging – Or is that […]
– Or the old political… I think it's extremely difficult,
all the old political forces reasserting their…
– But that's just not happening inside the Labour Party at the moment
– No, it's not, but… – And people like you and me are
sort of opting out of that and devoting our energies to Brexit
because we feel at least that's maybe got a chance, even if…
– Well it's also because it's the most urgent thing facing the country.
And one of the things the Labour Party's got to understand
about the present situation is that when you've got something
as critical as Brexit happening the country, the millions of people
out there, are expecting us to lead So could there not…could there be
a place for a..a..I mean the Lib Dems I know have got a
very clear position, the SNP have got a clear position.
Could there be a case for a new pro-European party
that fights the next election just on that – the next election,
not the one after – the next election? No, look I think it's incredibly
difficult to start something new… – But then we're fucked!
Then we're doomed. – I still think and hope that…
– We're doomed on Brexit and we're doomed because
the Labour Party's dead. No, I don't…I'm never…
I don't think we're all doomed We're quite doomed
It feels quite doomed It's challenging, yeah, it's challenging.
Although I think you can build a movement in the country
that holds the government to account – On Brexit
– On Brexit – Right, ok.
Do you feel you have more in common with Jeremy Corbyn or Nick Clegg? I'm not getting into those questions because they're too difficult to…
– Do you think you have more in common with (laughs)
– for me to answer without getting into a situation where, I mean…
– But Clegg, have you seen Clegg? Does Clegg ever phone you up and say
let's have a chat about this, that and the other?
In a way that Jeremy doesn't? No, I discuss Europe with him
from time to time and I admire – Tim Farron?
– what he's doing on Europe. – Do you have more in common with
Tim Farron and Clegg..than er, Corbyn? – Yeah, I'm not getting into all the
personalities… – Sturgeon? More commonly Sturgeon?
What do you think of Nicola? I think she's a very effective politician. What do you think about
her basic argument? That Brexit has totally
fundamentally changed the debate on Scotland, and Scotland now
should have another vote? Look, I think it is a change
and I don't think you can, you know people in the Labour Party
were angry with me when I have said it's a material change
in the situation but as I said to them, look
I can hardly go through the referendum campaign saying
'if you vote Brexit it's going to be a problem for the Union'
and then afterwards say 'no, it's really not a problem at all' I mean, we should leave that to the
leave campaigners, but it's…but having said that, I do not think
independence is sensible for Scotland even if Brexit happens. And I don't
think it's a case for another referendum If there was a way, if you were Scottish,
well you kind of are, you were born in Scotland, if you were Scottish
and you saw a way of Scotland independent –
I know it's difficult – staying as a member of the
European Union, and rather than being part of this
exited, Brexited UK, is that not a very very attractive
option if you were Scottish? – I still think…
– Even with all the obstacles? No I still think it's better for
Scotland to remain part of Britain – Even out of Europe? Which you think
is going to be a catastrophe? Yeah, yeah, because I think in the end
the union between England and Scotland is so important. But having said that
today, with Britain in Europe you can be Scottish, British and
European. – Exactly
– After Brexit you can be two of those things but not all three of them
And so that's the tragedy of it. Paul Dacre – force for good or bad
in the world? I think that the politics that he
drives through the Daily Mail is…is very damaging for Britain. Rupert Murdoch?
Force for good or cause for bad? So I disgaree with him
on politics too. Murdoch? Yeah. So do we get too close to Murdoch? Well you know why we did get close,
we got close because we'd been absolutely savaged by the media
throughout the 80s and early 90s. But we kept it on
for quite a long time. You only really fell out with Murdoch
when he started, you know getting… It's…it's a different, look…
I mean I'm a person… – Who's the worst of those two –
Dacre or Murdoch? – No, no, no…
– What? – I am, erm… I have changed my view about the media
because of Brexit… – […]
– No, no-one could ever be quite as… – So let's just admit it, Mail watch…
– You had to start this subject… – Mail watch…
– Oh please… – Mail watch.
Admit you made a mistake. No You did You stopped me doing a
daily rebuttal… – We were the government… but
– You were the government – but Trump's the government
– Let me make my point about the media – Right make your point.
– Ok. Which is that I think their activities in Brexit changed
the dynamic of their relationship to politics. Hang on.
– They've been doing it for years… No, they have, but this is a decision
that changed the whole course of our country's history…
– And having happened just in the way they cover policies. Up to…for a
decade or more. – Are you going to allow me
to finish what I'm saying? – (laughs)
– So, you know whatever issues I have with the media and
the way that increasingly over time newspapers have become
the playthings of a small group of
very powerful individuals my view is they crossed the line when they operated like a cartel
in respect of Brexit – Ah but we allowed them to
– Coordinated – no hang on a minute We didn't allow them to do this Where they were coordinating
and boosting… But we gave them space in the oxygen,
in the power, that got them that access – But, but, but…
– that influence on our debate Ok, you can debate about the history
I'm debating about what it is now And what I'm saying is
that I think they crossed the line at that point, for me. And, you know, to have this
small group of inividuals who control the press. who…
on the right…who provided that ramp to the propaganda and provide the villification
of anybody who dares oppose that now when it's not a decision of
these newspapers, like… as if they're institutions.
This is the decision of individuals – Right
– These individuals control these papers
– Murdoch's paper… They wouldn't be taking these
decision – these papers – unless they were instructed to do so. And I think that is…
that's…that's a line that they've stepped over… Right, and nothing's going to happen
about it And therefore, whereas I, you know
for ages and ages and ages have not, sort of, criticised them openly.
I'm sorry this is not on You have put yourself
in a different position in relation to the democracy
of the counrty you know, especially given that
many of them don't actually live and pay taxes in this country,
and I think that is… So I was right Tony?
You wouldn't say, I mean when I tried to get you to do this
ten years ago, I was right. But you didn't do it
because you were too close to them We were too close to them That wasn't the reason, it's also
because, well look… I've been frank with you,
it's partly because, you know… – It's easier in power..
– No… – To keep them on board – No…it's also because When you go and fight them
when you're in my position not in your position it's a full-on fight because
these people will come after you – Mmm
– I mean, they're like the Mafia Do you have anything else you'd like
to apologise to me or the nation for (laughs)
– Ruining my life? Any of that sort of thing? No?