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Treble troubles

Nick Robinson | 16:09 UK time, Thursday, 27 April 2006

Black Wednesday? Who are you kidding?

Tony Blair, being interviewed by Nick Robinson in east LondonThat's Tony Blair's reaction to coverage of his day of treble troubles (I've just been speaking to him on an election visit to east London - you'll can watch the interview here).

He insists that John Prescott's affair is a strictly private matter and that he has asked the questions that need to be asked about it. He insists he was right not to sack Charles Clarke. He angrily dismisses the idea that Patricia Hewitt should have offered her resignation. Finally, he compared himself with Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger - who months ago faced calls for the sack but now...


  • 1.
  • At 05:06 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • John Atkins wrote:

Mr Blair was probably quite right to compare himself to the football managers. Their job, just like himself, is to oversee the actions of a bunch of prima donna's. What he should realise however is that any incompetence by HIS charges have far more serious repercussions, than the loss of a football match.

  • 2.
  • At 05:30 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Manjit Mand wrote:

Doubt to many will agree with me but I actually fully agree with the Prime Ministers comments today. I do'nt think either Hewitt or Clarke should resign, it's far better they sort out the problems.

Also the BBC should grow up why compare yesterday with the Tories 'Black Wednesday'? It seems when everytime Blair has a bad news story BBC pundits such as Andrew Neil etc car'nt help themselves but say this is the end of Blair etc. It's been going on since 1997 yet Blair is still in office.

  • 3.
  • At 05:33 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • David wrote:

Typical Blair, blames everyone else for focusing on the little things - like sheer departmental incompetance - and not seeing his grand legacy as the most important issue. I noticed in the Commons yesterday that when he couldn't throw nurse and teacher numbers at questions he really looks lost, and it's the same story today. And he even has time to pretend he's a man of the people with a football reference.

  • 4.
  • At 05:40 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Craig Storey wrote:

Roundly pathetic from Bliar as usual.
Labour largely got in to Government in 1997 on the basis of a pathetic Tory administration and the "sleeze" and in competance ticket, and what do they turn out like in the end? Just the same, although it's all right, because the Tories have done it before?! Dreadful stuff from a man and individuals who are allegedly governing our country. It's a good job some of us don't follow the unofficial New Labour mantra of "don't do as I do, do as I say" isn't it?!?!

  • 5.
  • At 05:54 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Jason Nisse wrote:

When exactly did Arsene Wenger face the sack? Tony showing his great knowledge of football again.

  • 6.
  • At 05:58 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Trip wrote:

Since I started to vote in 1979 I have heard stories of infidelity and mistakes by departments regularly. The older I get the less I am concerned about media stories about:- 1) who slept with Prescott/ministers 2)mistakes by civil servants in departments 3)incompetance of NHS which can never be fixed. The Tories and Liberals need help in the local elections but we all know they wouldn't fare any better and Media coverage is just over the top as usual. All the above except 3 happen every day in every job so give it a rest.

  • 7.
  • At 06:00 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Brecht, Everett wrote:

According to Blair its the media's fault.... Guess what tony it's your fault... Excellent interview nick btw

  • 8.
  • At 06:07 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • anon wrote:

"Finally, he compared himself with Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger - who months ago faced calls for the sack but now..."

but now they're 2 of the most hated figures in the country

Yes, I see where Blair is coming from on this issue.

  • 9.
  • At 06:08 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

Tony Blair is resilient - he himself said it - and what is now needed in the Labour Party is a face lifting with new blood to replace the embattled ministers. Should Gordon take over, he should also put up a new team.

  • 10.
  • At 06:13 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Blair is comparing himself to two major team managers. Who then is the Chairman of the Club, controlling how much he can spend on getting out of the hole he is in?. Brown?

  • 11.
  • At 06:17 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • kevin wrote:

just watched your interview on etc and thought, same old prevarications, never answer direct question when you can throw statistics as an answer ( however untrue ) but when tb tried used a football analogy , one would guess he is sweating.
and not a good choice.
chelsea, under their manager, are best team in the land over the long haul, fergerson should go this summer (or last), having outstayed his welcome...
kevin in margate

  • 12.
  • At 06:27 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • sean fleetwood wrote:

head in the sand he really that desperate to hit the 10 year anniversay in Downing Street?

TB, your time is up and so is that of your incompetent cabinet.

do one decent thing and dont just hand over to your next door neighbour, call an election and let us REALLY let you and NEW LABOUR know what we think of you!?

  • 13.
  • At 06:45 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • The Play For Today wrote:

How on Earth can he compare himself to a football manager? Is that really how he sees himself? Perhaps next time you speak to him you should remind him he's ruining a country not a football team.

  • 14.
  • At 06:52 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

When I noticed your article's title and the football managers reference, I assumed Blair's sympathy was rooted in the fact that he has been forced to defend the indefensible this week (in much the same way Alex Ferguson would robustly defend Roy Keane after yet another inexcusable sending off). Ol' Tony is getting a fair amount of practice when it comes to playing down these sorts of thing.

  • 15.
  • At 07:01 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Dan wrote:

And your opinion of what he said, Nick? Unfortunately, I think the media (you included) often do look like a bunch of excitable idiots, only interested in reducing everything to a headline and a soundbite. We very rarely hear any arguments based on facts from you, for example. You make it very easy for politicians when you use hyperbole and sensationalism.

  • 16.
  • At 07:04 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Tom Maxwell wrote:

It's all about survival now, and it's not pretty.

I wonder what Hewitt sees in him...

  • 18.
  • At 07:13 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Ben Slight wrote:

Ah - Mr Blair is offering 'his support' again to embattled ministers. Doesn't that sound familiar - didn't he offer that same support to Estelle Morris and it ended up being 'the kiss of death?' Interesting to notice how Blair left Parliament during Clerk's speech - what a show of support, I'd take that as a firm hint that there is a looming reshuffle ahead. Blair is trying to insulate himself - as Major tried (unsuccessfully to do) in the 1990's leaving ministers to their fate.

Blair's main problem is he announced his resignation - he tied his hands. Just as Bush is suffering now in the USA, Blair is in the same position. If he tries to stay on he will be forced out - Gordon Brown won't stay silent forever. Unlike Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger they never pre-empted their critics in a manner in which Blair has done and chose to ride out the storm.

Prescott shows the hypocrisy of politics - especially for someone who was so keen to scorn the Major Government for 'sleaze.' He may survive, but his reputation has been tarnished - especially in light of accusations he levelled agains the Tories in the 1990's.

Clerk is wounded but not out. As he said, it depends on the fallout. If the media continue the furore and something happens as a result, he will be out. He is more likely to be reshuffled than anything else.

Hewitt is a liability as health secretary, being jeered and booed shows it all. Her patronising ways to the RCN conference sums her up and makes her a target of the anger in the profession.

Blair needs to be careful. If he moves them in a MacMillian 'Night of the Long Knives,' fashion he will be seen as panicing. If he leaves it and does nothing and the scandal continues, he will suffer at the polls anyway.

Not the best of timing - but then Blair won't be PM at the next General Election will he? Is he deliberately setting Brown up for a fall?

  • 19.
  • At 07:25 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Oliver Perrin wrote:

Tone may be comparing himself to beFuddled Fergie and Winger Wenger, but the difference is that Man Utd and Arsenal players started performing and dug their managers out of trouble, while Blair's team are the most inept bunch of also-rans to have ever (dis)graced our political system, continuing to mess up ad nauseum. Why is this? Because Tone has always chosen Blairite clones, one and all. So he has to bite the bullet and accept that HE is ultimately responsible for the foul-ups. Happy retirement, old chap!

  • 20.
  • At 07:48 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Bill wrote:

OK, so the this is possibly not Blairs best week ever. If Particia Hewitt is wise, she will take the grief she's getting on the chin, if for no other reason that she was just plain stupid to make the claim she did about the NHS given the financial mess it's in, but lets not sack her for it.
While I don't in any way condone Prezza's affair, and no doubt he's very sorry he got caught , I do feel for him on the basis that he has become the "victim" of a woman scorned, who will have made a chunk of money for selling (oops, telling)her story.
Clark? Well, in my book he's doing an OK job. His is a problem that far out dates his time as Home Secretary. He's taken resopnsibility (Jack Straw, David Blunkett- not a squeek from either of them....) and he is says he is doing his best to sort it out. Let's judge him on what he does now.
I'm not in any way denying the seriousness of the issue, or any of the other ones, but please can we stop just calling for scalps. Yes, a lot of people have had a gut full of the Government, but they did vote for it less than a year ago, yes, many people are sick of Blair and are looking for a way of knocking him for just about everything in order to weaken his leadership, but the reality is this is as much about the media following storylines (Blair is weakening, how long can he keep on going) as anything else since not a lot of real interest seems to be happening at the moment. (No offence, Nick. You can only make the best of the material you are given and its your job to cover these things in an interesting way).
My prediction for the local elections? Blair is loosing his grip- when is he off? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • 21.
  • At 07:58 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Gerry O'Neill wrote:

Why should Tony care? He has got away with it again because of the ineffective opposition and the less than stellar quality of MPs. Where are the terriers never mind the hounds?

Governments of all persuasions will get away with all sorts of stuff as long as there is no-one to hold them accountable.

Time is a great healer and there will always be something else for the media to dwell on to prevent boredom setting in. One of the wonders of living in Amerika is that you can guarantee citizens will be totally put off by the constant repetition of some aspect of only a limited number of news stories.

The most addictive soap at the moment

  • 23.
  • At 08:23 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • David Evans wrote:

An interesting interview. Tony Blair seemed to be taking the line that the headlines bear no resemblance to reality. Not a great shock. However, people often believe (and are at least greatly influenced) by the headlines. I'm not comfortable with the darwinian forces this is applying to our leaders.

Is it me, or is it getting gradually worse?

Poor old Tony - facing relegation. Even the least successful football manager is in the business of trying to entertain the fans. The only entertainment we get from Tony's team is the hapless ways they contrive to score own goals. It's time he became a TV pundit and gave up the sleazy version of the "beautiful game".

  • 25.
  • At 08:37 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Brian Tomkinson, Bolton,UK wrote:

Incompetence is endemic throughout this Government. Blair picked this team. He is not prepared to acknowledge their failings and deal with them but instead he would rather blame the press for creating sensational headlines. This makes him the most incompetent one of a rotten bunch.

  • 26.
  • At 08:38 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

I cannot believe the words I've just listened to. Quote, "I'm doing the best of my ability". They have a very hollow sound for to-day.

Churchill said, "it is no use saying", " I/We are doing our best". "You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary". Has the Labour party never read or heard of this?

Now, why oh why doesn't that man get rid of all incompetents of the Labour party?

Clarke = finger in hole trying to stop the tide of convicted criminals evading deportation because of "systemic faults" within a system he's in charge of.

Hewitt = spoonful of medicine helps cure all ailments including job losses, poor pay and conditions, lack of patient beds and care, increased working hours. Take it, you know it's good for you. Trust me, me and only me. I won't let you down.

Prescott = so far I've had two of everything, two jags, two jabs, two houses, two chins, two bellies and to cap it all now two lovely ladies. Once upon a time instead of broadcasting a personal failure one would simply slide away. Not so to-day.

"We will be transparent, accountable, responsible" has not got that ring anymore. More like abject failure all round.

  • 27.
  • At 08:40 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • kim wrote:

Is Alex Ferguson talking to the BBC yet ?

Careful Nick, there's a veiled threat in that analogy, and I'm surprised that you missed it.

Anyway, better start being nice at your post-match interviews.


  • 28.
  • At 08:49 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

Maybe instead of Arsene or Jose, he should have compared his situation to Luis Filipe Scolare's who also has a term to run, but only a limited timescale in which to be accountable to his current supporters :)

  • 29.
  • At 09:00 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Chris Neill wrote:

That interview with Mr. Blair is fantastic work, especially the fact that in the face of everything, Mr. Blair remains good natured regardless of the firm and probing questions. I'm repeatedly impressed at your work Nick.

As for his cabinet, as I see it, there's definately an air of "no confidence" around their mass competence but let's hope that it's resolved before too long and that these reforms that we've heard about for the past nine years actually start arguing back for themselves and start working and impressing the average man who pays for them through his taxes.

Chris Neill, student, Belfast.

  • 30.
  • At 09:21 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Dave Gater wrote:

'Wenger.... Ferguson' who is he kidding ?Both Wenger and Ferguson are successful because they have top class players , and younger ones ready to step up to the next level. Blair FC rather looks like a team at the end of the season fighting relegation, with a team consisting of a number of injury prone crocks nearing the end of their respective careers.
Not even the anticipated cabinet reshuffle , will be able to keep our Tony from dropping out of the Premier league.

  • 31.
  • At 10:20 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • iain stevenson wrote:

the situation is this-the longer that Tony Blair stays as labour leader and PM the better chance there will be of the tories winning the next election,since its obvious as long as Blair is in charge the govt will lurch from crisis to crisis.As Blairs vanity probably wont allow him to step down before late 2008/early 2009 (when hes beaten Maggie Thatchers time in office)_there is a very good chance of the tories winning the next general election.Your contention Nick that Tony Blair might be encouraged to stay longer than people thought therefore is music to the ears of David Cameron!
I can assure you Nick that an early handover to Gordon Brown is the Tory partys worst nightmare!

  • 32.
  • At 10:23 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • Nurse wrote:

Hello Nick, I watched your interview with TB. I wonder if you think you might be in danger of becoming a bit too cosy in the Big Tent? Out in the real world my colleagues and I worry about patient care, especially for older people, as well as our jobs. Around us swirls corruption and incompetence: eg soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, cash for ermine and foreign criminals in our prisons and on our streets. This is no time for bonhomie.

  • 33.
  • At 11:09 PM on 27 Apr 2006,
  • MW wrote:

In your interview it seems to me that the distinction between media and opposition has all but collapsed. When a reporter employs the same line of questioning that an opposition politician would use, it makes me squirm. As a result, I find myself in the very unexpected position of agreeing with a Prime Minister that I otherwise would not vote for and wish would retire.

Had you asked him "If you were leader of the oppostion, wouldn't you be calling for resignations...." I would have felt less uncomfortable, for at least that would be asking him to reflect on what looks like an inconsistency in his behaviour before and after becoming PM.

But if interviewing is indistinguishable from opposition we might as well cut out the middle man and get David Cameron and Tony Blair to interview each other.

I found this interview to be very interesting, the kind of substantive and direct question and answer session we could use a lot more of here in the United States.

What really strikes me about Blair is the extent to which he is very comfortable about ignoring Parliamentary tradition. In any other previous governments the Home Secretary would have long since resigned as a matter of course.

Which seems to me to be a real weakness in the Westminster system: much of it runs on tradition, on the way things have always been done. But what happens when the government doesn't care much about that?

We saw the same thing in Commons in Canada last year when the Liberal government refused to step down after losing a vote of no confidence.

So Blair says the ministers are staying, bad week, nothing to worry about, etc.

That's really the end of the story if he sticks to that, isn't it?

Why didn't John Major think of that?

  • 35.
  • At 12:26 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Barry wrote:

Please oh please just stop dramatising the events as if they are occurring on Ramsey Street or as if there are a load of idiots watching. There are real issues here, not least whether the Home Office should be split into smaller, more manageable, departments (which I note the BBC reports elsewhere).

Would it be possible for you to REPORT the issues and not speculate, exaggerate and dramatise them? I do not need my political reporting to have a shot of artificial sweetener added; I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind based on the facts which are sadly lacking in your 6 'sentences' above.

Please, please, please, stop the hyperbole and JUST REPORT!

  • 36.
  • At 07:58 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • simon wrote:

Nick, can you please ask Mr Blair to clarify exactly what does qualify as "a resignation matter" these days?

  • 37.
  • At 08:42 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Ian Cooper wrote:

So the home secretary thinks he should stay on to sort out the mess. The last person to say that was the Chief Constable of Humberside and that made Mr Blunkett furious.

  • 38.
  • At 09:46 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • ballsdeep wrote:

Nick, i'm generally impressed with your work and it was interesting to see you interview with Tony Blair last night but it left me wondering why you couldnt ask some more uncomfortable questions and put him under a bit more pressure. For example, I found it cringeworthy when TB his situation to a football manager - does he really think that these important issues are on the same level as a game?
I guess its difficult as a journalist becaue you rely on some kind of favourable relationship with the PM's press department in order to get the interviews in the first place.

  • 39.
  • At 10:10 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Bill wrote:

David gater wrote, "Blair FC rather looks like a team at the end of the season fighting relegation'
Problem is, technically the season has only just strted....

  • 40.
  • At 10:14 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • George Tippett wrote:

I also thought it was a good interview Nick, well done. I loved the way uour silence between questions invited him talk on and on until even he realised he was drivelling and snivelling. He just looked pathetic come the end of it. Serves him (and them) right - they made an art form of using the media as a weapon - now its turning on them!

  • 41.
  • At 10:40 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Leigh wrote:

Go Tony, go, really, please - GO!!

  • 42.
  • At 10:44 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • George Hinton wrote:

I do not agree that Prescott's affair is a private matter.
Prezza has used his position in the past to make comments about other politicians who have strayed and erred. Now that he has erred, he claims and Blair supports, that the matter is private, it is not.
He has used his position and the trappings to conduct an adulterous affair. By doing so he has demonstrated his duplicity to his wife, and indeed shown to the electorate that he not a man to trust (We know that already).
In public life there is no such thing as private, you take tax-payers monies, your life becomes open.
If our politicians do not have an exemplary lifestyle how do we set the example for others?

  • 43.
  • At 11:59 AM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • David Walker wrote:

Although the sleaze campaign continues as the press enjoy the chase, are the Tories or LibDems any different. Not at all. People are people with their faults and if it doesn't affect their jobs then why the fuss?

Oh, and nick, are you scared of a real photo for your page. The cartoon makes you looks sleazy.... aha.. and your into politics...

  • 44.
  • At 12:51 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

What surprised me about the interview when I heard it on the radio was that on two occasions Blair insisted that he felt the problem had been overstated because none of the prisoners had been released early.

Surely all of the prisoners will have been released early. I thought it was standard practice to release a prisoner automatically after they had served half their sentence, for those with a sentence of under four years, or after two-thirds of their sentence for those with sentences of four years or more.

Just because early release has become standard doesn’t mean he can redefine it out of existence with some sort of rhetorical sleight of hand. “None” is not the same as “all”, just as “very very few” is not the same as “over a quarter”.

  • 45.
  • At 01:11 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Nurse wrote:

ps to my earlier comments:
Nick, when you next interview Tony or Patricia or Gordon will you ask whether they think my excellent colleagues recruited over the last few years from overseas to fill our nursing skills shortages, will feel betrayed when they lose their jobs with the rest of us?

  • 46.
  • At 01:28 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Nurse wrote:

ps to my earlier comments:
Nick, when you next interview Tony or Patricia or Gordon will you ask whether they think my excellent colleagues recruited over the last few years from overseas to fill our nursing skills shortages, will feel betrayed when they lose their jobs with the rest of us?

  • 47.
  • At 01:39 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • William Mumford wrote:

The issue I find most extraordinary is that in offering his resignation Clarke clearly feels that the inaction and incompetence merits his own resignation. Otherwise he would have felt it worthwhile to tough it out and make good the problems and so I can not understand how he can now defend his own position. That assumes of course that he did indeed tender his resignation.

It makes me laugh somewhate when governments attack the press, because the press is far more dependent on the public that politicians. They have to appeal to the public every day, not just at elections.

I wrote about this a couple of days ago and tried to highlight the differences between this and Black Wednesday.

The media and others are missing the point. The point isn't that this superficially resembles Black Wednesday because it's nowhere near as serious. The point is that the public are approaching a similar level of distrust.

Many of these problems are surrogates for the war in Iraq. Nobody is mentioning the war in Iraq much when it comes to these stories. If you ask people who they associate with the war in Iraq they'll say "George Bush, Tony Blair".

I'll put it another way; would the public have the scent of blood if it weren't for the war in Iraq? Or would it just be grumbling?

It doesn't matter if any of what the public feels is justified; if they feel like they're not being listened-to they'll vote accordingly.

It will be an interesting May 4th.

  • 49.
  • At 02:27 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Dominic wrote:

Is it merely coincidence that it's three of Mr Blairs key lieutenants - Prescott, Hewitt and Clarke - who find themselves in hot water? Gordon Brown hasn't exactly been quick to lend his voice in their support. Tony Blair could find his options very limited should he choose to reshuffle the Cabinet after the local election results.

  • 50.
  • At 02:37 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Paul Louth wrote:

"All the above exept 3 happen every day in every job so give it a rest"

I disagree that the media should "give it a rest". As the general-public we are effectively the employers of government ministers. They are accountable to us. Therefore it's the moral obligation of the press to inform the public when they make mistakes, however many they make.

This government doesn't seem to think they should be accountable to us, and Tony Blair's "nothing to see here" attitude will be found out next week at the polls I'm sure.

  • 51.
  • At 02:51 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • george tippett wrote:

hey Nick - someone at the BBC has really screwed up your Post A Comment pages. They are all over the place. Do you have New Labour people working for you too?

  • 52.
  • At 05:05 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Vijay K Vijayaratnam wrote:

Prime Minister is absolutely right things have to be taken with proper perspective.
Private sector employers have been known for years that their job is not for life and one must be prepared to re-train for other jobs.Why on earth the nation own a living to all the nurses via NHS?. All private sector work with minumum staff to keep cost down and NHS should do the same.
Charles Clarke inherited the problem and he has shown willingness to resign and must be given the chance to put things right.
It is not the best way to go about sacking some one every time they make one or two mistakes.Let the private matter of John Prescott remain private.

  • 53.
  • At 06:54 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Mark wrote:


I watched the interview with interest. The only firm conclusion I could come to is that you are a Conservative. There is no other explanation for your negative attitude towards the Labour administration. Unfortunately you have reduced BBC reporting of politics from a challenging debate as was to the level of the gutter press. A shame that the integrity of the BBC must be cast into doubt due to your personal prejudices.

  • 54.
  • At 07:24 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Derrick Byford wrote:

Nick, a possible solution to Tony Blair's problems? Move Gordon Brown to be Home Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister. He will of course have to remain as Home Secretary until all the problems in the Home Office are sorted out.

  • 55.
  • At 08:12 PM on 28 Apr 2006,
  • Iain, Edinburgh wrote:

One year into the game with a red card already (Blunkett) and three fouls in quick succession. What should the referee decide?

Prescott - red card. If he was an Armed Forces officer, he would the stark choice of resigning or facing court-martial. His choice of partner was a subordinate in his department and that is a clear breach of both trust and duty of care.

Clarke - red card. This scandal was only unearthed through the persistence of the Public Accounts Committee, and more effort was put into denying there was a problem than trying to sort it. Now it transpires that at least 5 serious offences have been committed. Clarke has clearly lied by omission in order to downplay it and should resign for this breach of public trust. Also, what is the point in being in charge of a department if you refuse to take responsibility? When a serious breach occurs, those responsible must acknowledge their responsibility by resigning if appropriate. There are local elections next week and Clarke's refusal to make a public demonstration of how serious the issue is taken can only add to this scandal of crime and immigration, which will assist the odious efforts of the BNP in recruiting disaffected voters.

Hewitt - yellow card. She hasn't done anything wrong other than attempt to implement a horrendously unpopular and misguided policy which sacks nurses and hires managers. Nothing unusual there.

Remember two of the pledges:

Pledge 4. Your country's borders protected.

Pledge 5. Your community safer.

If Prescott and Clarke had any integrity they would stand down...actions speak louder than words.

Incidentally Nick, your robust questioning of the PM is always a joy to behold! Next time, can you ask him when he will get around to visiting wounded soldiers and bereaved families? He has often talked about the "blood price" and extended effusive condolences at PMQs (perhaps to use up some of the 30 minutes allocated for his weekly grilling) but appears to prefer the company of rich businessmen and celebrities.....

  • 56.
  • At 09:58 AM on 29 Apr 2006,
  • alan mcpartland wrote:

Tony Blair compares himself to Wenger, Ferguson and Mourinho. There are of course two significant differences. They are successful, he is not and they don't have blood on their hands.

  • 57.
  • At 11:28 AM on 29 Apr 2006,
  • Nicola Jewell wrote:

Does the row about foreign prisoners not hand a fantastic opportunity to the BNP in the local elections? For that alone Charles Clarke should go. For that desperate twisting to keep his job he should go.

I hate the way this story has come out, piece by piece, dragged out from under the cover-ups. I hate the way Tony Blair has tried repeatedly to ignore it. Why can't he confront it straight on?

I hate the way the foreign prisoners thing has been reported, dare I say it, even on the BBC. Police raids? Not all these people need to be deported! Point: they've served their time. They've paid. Released without deportation is not necessarily a mistake. Failing to consider it might be, and failing to track high-risk prisoners is pretty stupid. But not all of these prisoners have reoffended for God's sake and surely they deserve a chance of rehabilitation in peace.

And let's think about where we are deporting them to. Or doesn't it matter if they commit rape or drug offences or violence in their home countries?

Do we track all former prisoners indefinitely in this country, or is it just foreign ones who get into the papers?

For the commenter above who said that Labour are as sleazy as the Tories - no, they're not. Rewind to 1993 and then play till 1997. Memories can't be that short, surely? (and I was only 13 in 1993!)

Triple troubles?
Now cannibas has been found at John Reids house!
Is Tony Blair just experiencing another "worst week" or has his Government totally gone to pot?

  • 59.
  • At 07:33 AM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • Garry wrote:

So CC offered to resign in dec/jan. What explanation did he give and did CC explain the situation at that time to the PM? And based on that what action did the PM do? Effectively the PM and CC both knew in January of the problem and both of them done nothing until now.

  • 60.
  • At 11:30 AM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • R Sawyer wrote:

The problem with all the above is that the issues can only be solved by an election.
According to todays press and earlier comment the election process is so riddled with potential fraud, and it appears that the relevant minister is reluctant to confront the issue adequately.
Where next?

  • 61.
  • At 03:47 PM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • Mike wrote:

Compared himself to Alex Ferguson? Well, Fergie's just come second place to the side in blue, so I don't think Tony would want to press that comparison too far.

  • 62.
  • At 04:07 PM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • Anne Wotana Kaye wrote:

I was angry to read in The Mail On Sunday that the now ex-mistress of Prescott has been urged to take leave ON FULL PAY. How come, that when I worked, money was automatically deducted for every hour I was not at my desk. Was it because I didn't sleep with my boss?

  • 63.
  • At 04:16 PM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • Steve wrote:

Nick - this government administratively and fundamentally is incompetent - just look at te history - Foot & mouth, Child Support Agency, Passports, tax credits on-line fraud because of fundamental policy & operational laxity, late Defra payments to farmers, Health service, release of prisoners, immigration loss of control, Deputy PM sleeping with a subordinate and allegedly likely to have misused taxpayers money/premises/civil servant time, failure to administrate Iraq post hostilities.
What chance is there of an ID card system working?
What qualifications do these ministers have to run such projects? A whole new re-think is needed with separation of policy fron operations, and much smaller areas of responsibility for ministers etc.
You really ought to be giving the government a harder time by asking hard questions and refusing to accept bluster & spin.

  • 64.
  • At 08:07 PM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • alan sanders wrote:

If, as David Leppard says in the Sunday Times today, immigration officers were instructed by the Home Office not to deport foreign convicts because of fear that they would claim asylum, in order to meet Tony Blair's target of driving down applications for refugee status, then Tony Blair is directly responsible for the ensuing debacle. He is the one who should resign. The buck stops at No 10.

  • 65.
  • At 08:25 PM on 30 Apr 2006,
  • susan lindsey wrote:

Nick, I wonder if the overwhelmingly anti-Blairite responses to your blogging reflect something about your agenda? Put another way, if your reporting and blogging were politically neutral, why do Blair-haters seem so much more animated by the questions you pose than Blair-likers?

  • 66.
  • At 06:19 PM on 01 May 2006,
  • iain stevenson wrote:

I have the following piece of friendly advice for Tony Blair.I think there is only one way that Tony Blair can survive these next few difficult weeks and months ,and that is if he agrees a public deal with Gordon Brown,in the next week or 2,to stand down as PM this time next year,when he completes 10 years in Downing Street.If he does not do this I fear that events will rapidly unravel and he could find himself ousted before this years party conference.

  • 67.
  • At 08:59 PM on 02 May 2006,
  • Chuck Unsworth wrote:


You're not covering up for Prescott nor it seems are his various paramours. And it also seems as if Prescott is unable to keep himself covered up in certain quarters....

  • 68.
  • At 06:19 PM on 03 May 2006,
  • Melissa Anderson wrote:

I work in the Education field. If a headmaster had been accused on conducting a 'private affair' on school premises in the same way as Prescott has been accused, most parents would want the truth. If the truth meant that a senior manager/chief exec was conducting a private affair on school premises well...............guess the consequences!!

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