» Friday, March 24, 2006

PM Radio Interview

Asked what exactly the Prime Minister had made a mistake over, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said, as he had made very clear last night when in Melbourne and anyone who had listened to the interview could hear for themselves too, the Prime Minister had been interrupted mid comment. Therefore any report that did not make that clear was quite simply inaccurate and not reflecting the true events. We had equally made it clear, and the Prime Minister was himself very clear in his own mind, that what he would have gone on to say would have been that he had hoped that by pre-announcing his intentions it would kill the speculation. This had not turned out not to be the case. The Prime Minister had not said that the pre-announcement was a mistake. He had not said the pre-announcement had backfired. He had simply said that his hope had been that it would kill the speculation but this had proven not to be the case.

In response to the suggestion that the original statement had been to stop speculation and that since the Prime Minister was now saying it was a mistake to think it would stop speculation, then the original statement was a mistake, the PMOS said he disagreed. The purpose of the original statement had been to be honest about his intentions with the electorate before an election. If journalists actually went back and looked at what he had said on the night he announced it that was what they would find. The Prime Minister also knew that speculation was already there in the second term and that it would, in all likelihood have continued into the third term. We now had lots of assumptions and premises being made in reports, which weren’t actually borne out by the interview, if people listened to the interview it clearly showed that the Prime Minister had been interrupted.

The PMOS then suggested that if the Prime Minister’s intention had been to say what was being suggested in reports then you would have thought that the presenter who interviewed him would have picked it up. She had not. Put that it had been at the end of the interview, the PMOS said that was wrong they had gone on to talk about John Howard. This had actually been the presenter’s intention to ask about John Howard’s position, not the Prime Minister’s position. In response to the suggestion that the presenter had not picked it up because she had been more interested in John Howard than the Prime Minister, the PMOS said that any reporter who was suddenly told the Prime Minister thought that his pre-announced decision had been a mistake would have picked up on that, no matter where they were from. The Prime Minister had been interrupted and had not had the chance to complete his thought. Therefore the reports today were inaccurate.

Asked if the Prime Minister still intended to serve a full term, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had made his position clear and he had nothing to add. Put to the PMOS that Sir Menzies Campbell had said today that the Prime Minister should make his exit strategy clear and that the Prime Minister now had to be honest with the electorate and say what his intentions were, the PMOS said that that was a party matter and he had nothing further to add.

Put that most of the media had reported this morning that the Prime Minister appeared to have established in his own mind a date for his departure, what was the date and why shouldn’t people ask that question, the PMOS said the Prime Minister was focused on getting on with the business that he had been elected to get on with. It was a domestic agenda that included reforms in the NHS, in education, in other public services and tackling antisocial behaviour. It also included delivering a foreign policy agenda, which had today seen him get a standing ovation in the Australian parliament. In the speech he had taken the argument for global values, globally implemented further forward. He would take this on again in the third speech where he would call for significant changes to global institutions. Asked whether a leaving date would undermine that agenda, the PMOS said the Prime Minister had made it clear he would, having been elected less than a year ago, deliver on a domestic and a foreign policy agenda, on which he had won the election. He was going to live up to the commitment he had given the electorate and deliver on that agenda.

Put that the Deputy Prime Minster had admitted quite clearly that there was now a problem over the certainty of Mr Blair’s term in office and that the repercussions could not be ignored, the PMOS that the Deputy Prime Minister had actually said that he agreed with the Prime Minister’s decision to pre-announce his departure, which was a clear indication of where the Deputy Prime Minister stood.

Asked why the Prime Minister had not finished his thought, the PMOS said it had been very clear that the interviewer had been trying to drag the Prime Minister into Australian politics and to comment on the position of the Australian Prime Minister. This was clearly not something he wanted to do. Earlier he had also refused the opportunity to comment on the position of the opposition leader in Australia. He was sure everyone knew it was virtually unknown in London for presenters to interrupt politicians, but unfortunately that had been the case on this occasion.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had a timetable in mind, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister was delivering on the agenda that he had been elected less than a year ago to deliver. Put that it had been widely reported that the Prime Minster had made up his mind but not told anybody, the PMOS said referred journalists to his previous comments. Asked whether the Prime Minister still thought that Gordon Brown was his natural successor, the PMOS referred journalists to what the Prime Minister said the last time that he had been asked that question.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Search for related news

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