The Northern Echo scooped a world exclusive interview with Tony Blair on his final day as Prime Minister.
The editor of Blair’s local newspaper, Peter Barron, and political editor Chris Lloyd were invited to join the former leader on his train taking him back to London yesterday evening.
Blair said his legacy would be improved public welfare and reforms in education and the health service and moves towards the basic state pension being relinked to earnings.
He celebrated the appointment of the first black leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Amos, and said winning the 2012 Olympics showed pride in our country.
He added: ‘For the first time in my political lifetime, and indeed for the first time in the history of the Labour Party, the Conservatives have had to come to terms with us, rather than the other way round. This means [we] have changed politics in a more fundamental way than simply winning an election.”
In the interview, Blair told of his plans to take on a job as the UN, the US, Europe and Russia’s representative in the Middle East and that as a result he would be immediately standing down as MP for Sedgefield.
In his new role, he said he would prepare the ground for a ‘negotiated settlement’in the Middle East and prepare Palestine for statehood.
He described meeting the Queen on his final day as a ‘very warm and generous meeting’and on receiving his standing ovation he said: ‘Maybe you become a little emotional, when you suddenly realise that these are the last words you are ever going to say, not just from the Despatch Box but in the House of Commons, which after all is the mother of democracy and the most famous political institution in the world.”
Asked about the Iraq war, he said: ‘I don’t regret removing Saddam. You can argue about all these issues like de-baathification of the army and disbanding it and so on. The real reason we have got a problem in Iraq is that the enemy we face is not [there] because someone somewhere ticked the wrong box.
‘The worst moments are always when I hear about the deaths of our armed forces. That’s not to say that don’t have a great sense of responsibility for the decision making, I do, but I also don’t believe that their evil can entertain our respect.”