Blair defends his close ties with the White House as 'sensible'

Blair defends his close ties with the White House as ‘sensible’

By Ben Russell Political Correspondent

05 June 2004

 Tony Blair used the D-Day anniversary to defend Britain’s close ties with the United States yesterday, insisting that the transatlantic alliance was an essential part of foreign policy.

Mr Blair, who has been criticised for his close relationship with President George Bush, acknowledged the deep divisions over the war in Iraq. But he insisted that he had been right to join the Americans in ousting Saddam Hussein.

The Prime Minister told BBC Radio 5: "I think the American relationship is a transatlantic alliance that, I think, has stood this country in very good stead over the years. When we come to commemorate D-Day, as we are, one of the things we are commemorating is actually the strength of that alliance, and it is important that Britain keeps its strong position in Europe as well.

"But there are two parts to British foreign policy in my view: one is our membership of the European Union; the other is the transatlantic alliance. I don’t see the two in conflict. I think they are both sensible parts of a modern British foreign policy in the 21st century."

Mr Blair, speaking during a round of pre-election BBC interviews, said he understood the frustrations of the public. "When you get seven years into government then there is disappointment and disillusionment for various reasons. We have to go back to people in the end and say you have a fundamental choice."

On leadership, Mr Blair said he was still "up for it". Asked if he would serve a full term, he said: "As I have said to people, I’m up for the job for the reasons I have given. I still believe there’s a lot to do."

Asked if his job was getting harder, Mr Blair replied: "It does as time goes on. What you learn in this job is you can’t please all the people all the time.

"Indeed, sometimes pleasing some of the people some of the time is quite difficult.”

Mr Blair accepted next week’s polls would be a verdict on his leadership. "They always are to an extent and you have got to accept that." He denied claims that his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, had told Boris Johnson that Gordon Brown would never be prime minister: "I think the idea of my chief of staff giving interviews to Conservative MPs at traffic lights is rather far-fetched."

Asked whether his record would be overshadowed by the war in Iraq, he said: "Obviously there have been very strong views on Iraq, some people disagree passionately with the decision that I took. What I would say to people is I still say it is better that Iraq is without Saddam Hussein than with him."

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