The Blair Years part three: Blair in Power
- Blair "does do God – in quite a big way" says Campbell
Tony Blair acknowledges that his religious belief was central to his premiership in The Blair Years (Sunday 2 December, 10.15pm, BBC One) and admits that if you talk about it "people do think you're a nutter".
Alastair Campbell, who famously said "we don't do God" when asked about Blair's faith, now says: "Well he does do God, um, in quite a big way".
Tony Blair tells the programme: "You know if I am honest about it, yes of course it was hugely important. You know you can't have a religious faith and it be an insignificant aspect because it's, it's profound about you and about you as a human being.
"As I always say there is no point in me denying it, I happen to have religious conviction, I don't actually think there is anything wrong in having religious conviction – on the contrary I think it is a strength for people."
"To do this, this, the Prime Minister's job properly you need, you need to be able to separate yourself somewhat from the magnitude of the consequences of the decisions you are taking the whole time. Which doesn't mean to say and let me emphasise this that you're insensitive to the magnitude of those consequences or that you don't feel them deeply."
"If you don't have that strength it's difficult to do the job which is why the job is as much about character and temperament as it is about anything else.
"But for me having faith was an important part of being able to do that but it's not, you know I've said probably more than I intended to say about it but it just you know in the end that's, that's how, I mean and I think that that is also important because ultimately I think you've got to do what you think is right in this job and I learnt that over, over time really."
Asked about Alastair Campbell's refusal to discuss this, when he was in office, he says: "The reason that Alastair my press secretary has said we don't do God was not because actually he is opposed to religious faith but because you always get into trouble talking about it. So anyway here we are talking about it."
Blair adds: "Well it's difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system. I mean if you are in the American political system or others then you can talk about religious faith and people say yes that's fair enough and it is something they respond to quite naturally.
"You talk about it in our system and frankly people do think you're a nutter. I mean they sort of, you know you maybe go off and sit in the corner and you know commune with, with the man upstairs and then come back and say right I've been told the answer and that's it."
Alastair Campbell confirms: "It does, I think, inform a lot of what he thinks and says and does but partly because he's, you know pretty irreverent, he swears a fair bit and he you know if he sees a very attractive woman his eye will wander and all that stuff, he doesn't look like your classic religious sort of guy.
"I think his close circle always understood that there was a part of him that was really, really important, just in the logistical level, wherever you were in the world on a Sunday you had to find a church. As it were, on that kind of spiritual level it did inform a lot of what he talked about, what he read, as you say, what he felt was important."
Explaining his former reticence on the subject, Campbell adds: "But I just always worry in Britain the public are a bit wary of politicians who go on about God – I said my worry is that the Tories will pick this up and say, this is you saying, to be a Christian you've gotta be Labour. And that's just a bad political position to be in."
Peter Mandelson says of Blair: "He's not an exhibitionist when it comes to religion but deep inside him it is very, very important. This is a man who takes a Bible with him wherever he goes and last thing at night he will read from the Bible."
Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, says: "Well the people didn't know about this strong ethical position. The public might have been less willing to give him the triumph of three consecutive general election victories if they'd known the extent to which ethical values would overshadow pragmatism."
The Blair Years, Sunday 2 December 2007, 10.15pm,