The Prime Minister’s Reply to The Letter

— Tony Blair’s amazing reply

The 52 signatories of the letter have been waiting patiently for the prime minister’s reply to their letter since it was delivered and published on 26 April 2004.  It now (June 04) transpires that we got our reply the very next day, although few observers, however attentive, will have noticed it.  In reply to an equally unpublicised question by Lew Smith MP in the House of Commons on 6 May 2004, in which Mr Smith asked what assessment [the prime minister] has made of the recent open letter on Government policies on Iraq and the Israel/Palestine situation, signed by former British diplomats; and whether he plans to respond to the letter, Mr Blair gave the written reply:

I set out my response to the letter at the press conference I gave with the Italian Prime Minister on 27 April. A full transcript of this is available on the Number 10 website.

A later question by Lord Selsdon in the House of Lords asking when there would be a reply to the letter of the 52 was answered by Baroness Amos by reference to the prime minister’s answer to Lew Smith.  A search of the No. 10 website duly brings up the transcript of Mr Blair’s joint press conference with Signor Berlusconi on 27 April, which does indeed include a question from an unnamed journalist:

Can I just ask you if you are at all concerned by the fact that 50 senior Diplomats believe that your policies in Iraq are doomed to failure, in their words?

To this, and (as we are now told) to the 52 former diplomats and to the waiting masses in Britain and throughout the world, Mr Blair delivered the following immortal reply:

Well I think people are perfectly entitled to criticise, whether it is on Iraq or the Middle East peace process. I would just say two things. On Iraq, it is surely important that we try and help the Iraqi people get to a stable and democratic state, which is what they want, and don’t rely on me for that, or even former diplomats, for there are Iraqi Ministers here in London now, today, that will tell you why the Iraqi people passionately need our support and help to get to democracy so that their country is not run either by a dictator like Saddam or by fanatics and terrorists. And on the Middle East peace process, look again I totally understand people’s frustration at this, we have been talking today about how we need to make progress in the Middle East, but it is important that when we look at the problem in the Middle East we accept and recognise that the suffering of the Palestinians is appalling and we need to change that, but we also accept that there are innocent Israeli civilians being blown up by suicide bombs and terrorist acts, and therefore we need to bring about a situation in which there is proper security there so that the legitimate demands of the Palestinians can be realised, and the security of Israel can be protected. And I don’t think that any discussion of that issue is right unless we balance the suffering on both sides and recognise that both sides indeed are suffering in this situation.

Well worth waiting for.

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