C4 man attacks Blair for avoiding interview

The chief correspondent of Channel 4 News has criticised Tony Blair for not giving him a one-to-one interview in Pakistan and said that the trip confirmed his view that he would never become a political correspondent. Alex Thomson's comments, posted on the Channel 4 News blog, followed a trip to Pakistan where a press conference with Tony Blair and Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, was held.

Earlier this month, Thomson spent nearly three weeks in Afghanistan, working on a series of reports for the programme. After the Pakistan trip, he blogged: "Please — take me back to Afghanistan and that old thing of going out and getting stories instead of praying, relying, schmoozing and hoping for the next handout, photo-op or — God forbid! — [a] proper grown-up interview!

"If I didn't know by now — now I really know why I never wanted to be, never would be, never could be and never shall be a political correspondent."

Thomson told Press Gazette that the premise of the trip, covered by political editors such as the BBC's Nick Robinson and Sky News's Adam Boulton, was "as near to a promise that we would get a one-on-one interview with Blair as our desk had ever received".

He said that he and political correspondents took coaches and planes to Lahore and Islamabad, all on the hope that the interview with Blair would materialise, but it never did. "The beauty of it was that I had actually spent two-and-a-half weeks in Afghanistan, talking to people pretty extensively, so I know that the briefing that was given was just ludicrous." Thomson said that while he accepted that it was a press secretary's role to put a positive spin on events, government spin did little to help their cause, adding that Blair talked about Afghanistan in a way that only a few Afghans would recognise the country he was talking about.

He said: "That's OK up to a point, but when you're a prime minister and you go to a country where young men and women are being killed and appallingly maimed because of your policy, I don't think it is good enough not to sit down and account for it in proper one-on-one interviews."

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