'PM scoop got biggest reaction I've ever seen'

Sun’s Kavanagh interview: “PM was very responsive and relaxed”

An hour in the sunshine in the garden of 10 Downing Street and Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh got an exclusive that went round the world – the first interview with the Prime Minister since the Iraq war began.

“It has had the biggest reaction I have ever seen,” said Kavanagh. “He was very responsive and relaxed and obviously very relieved [that the war had ended so quickly and so well]. There were a lot of things that he thought at one point might not go that way.”

It was the intimate revelation that Tony Blair thought at one stage his pro-war stance could lose him his job which gave the scoop a massive boost.

Kavanagh had been pushing for an interview since before the war started “and pushing and pushing”, he said. Finally, 24 hours before he met Blair on Thursday of last week, he got the all-clear and he and photographer Arthur Edwards went to No.10. It was in the garden that Edwards got his informal shirt-sleeve pictures of the PM chatting to Kavanagh.

The story was followed up in the second editions of all the Friday papers and revisited in more depth, with leaders, on Saturday. Kavanagh was interviewed on Sky News and CNN and the story made headlines on ITN. He was also kept busy doing BBC and commercial radio interviews. International news agencies flashed the story around the world and it got extensive use in foreign newspapers.

Why had Blair chosen The Sun for the interview every media outlet coveted? The paper had a few sharp things to say about his policies before the war – “and will have again in the future, I think,” said Kavanagh firmly – but had given him wholehearted backing during hostilities.

“I think there are a whole range of reasons why he picked us, not the least of which was the fact we are the biggest-selling paper and the favourite paper of the armed forces.” But Blair did give the Sun men his thanks for the paper’s support as they left.

There were no subjects off-limits during the discussion. Kavanagh said they discussed a lot of different issues, including domestic matters, during the hour, and though there were some he would like to have explored further, none were blocked. Kavanagh said it was clear Blair had been under enormous strain and he wanted to stress to him how much he appreciated his wife and family’s support.

By Jean Morgan

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