Global terror attacks show bombings were not response to Iraq, says Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair.  Pic: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Pic: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
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TONY BLAIR has described how he wrestled with life-or-death decisions about heeding terrorist threats in the wake of the 7/7 bombings.

The former prime minister said one of the biggest challenges had been striking a balance between keeping the public safe and avoiding shutting down London.

He also again denied that the UK had brought such attacks on itself by joining the war in Iraq.

In an interview with LBC radio, Mr Blair said he was hosting the G8 summit in Gleneagles when news of the attacks broke in 2005.

“This was literally the day after we had won the Olympic bid for Britain. It was a moment of great euphoria for the country, for me it was a huge moment of joy and hope for the future,” he said.

“I remember sitting having a bilateral discussion with the president of China when someone came in and handed me a slip of paper which said there has been an incident and you have to come out of the meeting quickly.

“I came out and then I was told about the first attacks. At the time it wasn’t quite clear exactly what it was. Within 20-30 minutes it became quite clear and I spoke to Charles Clarke who was the home secretary at the time.

“As the day progressed, it became obvious that this was a severe set of terrorist attacks.”

Mr Blair said his first response was to try to “bring people together” and deal with the “huge trauma” suffered by the capital.

He added: “One of the things that happens in these situations is that you get warnings and you cannot be sure if they are reliable or not. For the next few weeks we were in constant anxiety as to whether each time a warning came about whether we should shut down the Underground ...

“We thought at the time there was a distinct possibility these attacks would not be a one-off. I remember we were having meetings the whole time about whether we would be suffering another attack, whether each time we got a warning what would we do about that warnings.

“Obviously you have a duty of care to people, on the other hand if you keep shutting down the city every time there is a warning, you are going to bring it to a stop.

“It was an incredibly difficult set of decisions during that time.

“We did take one or two of the warnings very seriously and shut the Underground, or parts of it. But then we came to a point where I decided we wouldn’t just keep on doing this.”

Interviewed by his former Cabinet colleague Dame Tessa Jowell, Mr Blair denied that the terrorist attacks could be portrayed as a response to his foreign policy.

“One of the most important things to do here is look at this in the bigger context,” he said.

“9/11 in New York was probably the first really large scale terrorist attack. Obviously, we had certain foreign policy responses to that.

“The problem is that even those countries that didn’t participate in Iraq at all, like France, are now subject to these attacks.

“We have seen them most recently in Tunisia. Countries like Belgium or Norway, who are countries that have no real foreign policy presence, are also subject to this.

“This is a global problem ... and the only way of dealing with it ultimately is for people to come together whatever their faith background and say we are united against this terrorism, and to say we are not going to allow anyone to excuse themselves by saying the slaughter of totally innocent people is somehow a response to any decision by any government.

“It is the responsibility of those who carry out the attacks of terrorism and those who incite them.”