Things have got better, Blair tells voters
Tony Blair has urged voters to focus on their daily life when assessing Labour’s ten years in power.
In his debut YouTube interview, believed to be the first such broadcast from a head of state, Mr Blair appeared exacerbated with public disillusionment in his government.
When people are reminded what Britain was like in 1997, they concede that Labour has achieved an impressive record and appreciate the changes in living standards, he insisted.
“Compare economic circumstances with the place you’re in with economic living standards of the day,” he told voters.
In an interview with the writer and Labour party member John O’Farrell, the prime minister said that all politicians must expect that “great expectations” and public popularity will not last and instead focus on what they have actually achieved.
Superficially his greatest achievement could be winning an unprecedented three elections for the Labour market, but more substantially the country has improved. “2.5 million more jobs, economy is stronger, hundreds of thousands kids and pensioners lifted out of poverty, massively improved school results,” he said as an example.
Mr Blair would not be drawn into a debate on his greatest successes and failures. He said: “When people ask me what is your greatest success or failure I never answer it. It is for other people to judge.”
However, the prime minister appeared keen to counter allegations that the invasion of Iraq counts among his greatest mistakes. The current situation in Iraq is “tragic,” he conceded, but insisted the country would still have problems if Saddam had remained in power, “but a different set of problems.”
“The judgement about Iraq in the end will be made in the longer term. I will never be able to say it was the wrong thing to remove him because I think it was the right thing,” Mr Blair said.
The prime minister refuted the suggestion he should have resigned over Iraq; UN resolutions were the basis for going to war and there was “no doubt” Saddam was in breach.
While apologising for the flawed information on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Mr Blair insisted people were not deliberately deceived. It was known that Saddam had once had WMDs because he had used to them, and what happened to them subsequently is “absolute speculation”.
Mr Blair’s first YouTube broadcast was released as the latest opinion polls show Labour’s popularity has slipped to levels not seen since 1983 and Michael Foot’s election defeat.
Speaking to BBC’s Breakfast programme, Mr Blair again urged disillusioned voters to focus on Labour’s achievements.
“The important thing for us is to concentrate on keeping the economy strong, making sure that we get the investment in the NHS and education, continuing the drive on antisocial behaviour,” he said.
“And obviously we’ve got a very challenging time in the health service, but on the other hand, you also see that the treatment for patients is improving the whole time.”