Sir Tony Blair: Downing Street parties explainable but not excusable

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Gareth Milner

By Gareth Milner

Published: 16/01/2022

- 12:54

The former Labour said he could 'understand people feeling enraged and very angry'

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair has said he could “understand how” rule-breaking parties in No 10 could happen, but that they were still inexcusable.

Sir Tony, who occupied Downing Street for a decade, said he did not want to “get into questions of resignation or not” when asked whether Boris Johnson should resign over the partygate allegations.

File photo dated 09/04/18 of former prime minister Tony Blair who will become a Sir after being appointed as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in the New Year honours list. Issue date: Friday December 31, 2021.
Former PM Tony Blair
Stefan Rousseau

The former Labour leader said he could “understand people feeling enraged and very angry” about the claims of lockdown-contravening events, but that he could also see it “from the perspective of Downing Street”.

He added: “The people in Downing Street would have been working under the most enormous pressure, enormous difficulty.

“I understand how it happened.

“But the trouble is, you can give an explanation but you can’t really excuse it.

“People were obeying restrictions, often with massive personal cost and anguish and grief, and it just shouldn’t be allowed to happen, frankly.

“But I guess he (Boris Johnson) knows that.”

Sir Tony told Times Radio he did not recall holding drinking parties during his tenure as Britain’s leader, adding: “When you are there, it’s such a pressured environment and you’re usually working flat-out, so most people at the end of the busy day just want to go home.”

The prominent politician was appointed by the Queen as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry, at the turn of the year.

But a petition to strip him of his knighthood gathered more than one million signatures, with a campaign calling him the “least deserving person” following his part in involving the UK in the allied invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sir Tony said he “expected” people to object to the decision but argued that there are some who “want to say the only thing the government did was Iraq and ignore all the rest of the things we do”.

“Especially in today’s politics, you don’t occupy a position of leadership and take decisions without arousing a lot of opposition and so it didn’t surprise me,” he added.

“The best thing is just to accept that of course there will be people who strongly oppose it and detest me for various reasons, and this is just what happens in politics.”

He said he was “perfectly happy with Tony”, rather than being called “Sir Tony”, following the honour.

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