Just plain 'ol Tone

Trappings of power are not the PM's thing. He's a modern guy, really. Of his generation, he might say
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The Independent Online
Yesterday, following his exclusive newspaper interviews in The Sun and The Mirror, his exclusive radio interviews on IRN, Capital, Virgin and Kiss, and his exclusive television interviews with GMTV, L!VE TV, MTV and Disney Channel, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, spoke to me, exclusively, over tea in the garden at No 10 Downing Street.

DA: Prime Minister, thank you very much for agreeing to this exclusive interview.

TB: No hassle. It is a great pleasure to address readers of The Independent. But, you know, often I don't think of myself as Prime Minister, but just as plain Tony Blair. (laughs)

DA: Yes, I sometimes have that problem. Not thinking I'm Tony Blair, obviously, but that I'm David Aaronovitch, not a columnist on ...

TB: That's right, Don. You see, the trappings of power do not appeal to me. I'm a modern guy, really. You could say that I'm of my generation ...

DA: And mine.

TB: Your what?

DA: Generation.

TB: How old are you, exactly?

DA: A year younger than you.

TB: And look what's happened to us. You're a reasonably well-known journalist on a broadsheet newspaper - one of only seven in this country. And I'm Prime Minister! (laughs)

DA: (laughs) Fantastic! But tell me, what aspects of the job give you the greatest buzz?

TB: Everything. There isn't a second goes past but I thank heaven for giving me the opportunity to serve. That's all I want really, to serve. I've always loved serving. John Prescott has always loved serving. You see, Denys, its about the ordinary people out there! (He makes a sweeping gesture beyond the garden wall and over towards Horse Guards Parade. His arm catches my full teacup, spilling the scalding contents on to my lap. Fortunately, he doesn't notice and continues.) They're the ones that matter.

DA: (in a thin voice) You care about all the tourists?

TB: Yes, yes, yes - them too. Everyone.

DA: What is the worst aspect of being Prime Minister. Apart from the interviews? (laughs)

TB: I guess it's the lack of privacy. People always asking about Cherie and the kids. I deal with it by absolutely refusing to discuss anything to do with the kids or the family. It's the only way.

DA: What about relaxation from the gruelling demands of your job?

TB: I play music, I play with the kids. I get out the Fender Stratocaster and jam, or I get out the kids and do their homework for them. It's great to be with the kids, doing kid things. And the kids bring other people's kids with them to play, so that the place is always full of kids, you know?

So my idea of the perfect day is to serve ordinary people from six in the morning till, say, seven in the evening, then play with as many kids as I can for a couple of hours, then jam on the Strat with Mo - who does a great Janis Joplin - till 10, speak to President Clinton by phone at 11, and then jog quickly over to the Abbey to say a prayer before bed.

DA: But do the kids ever ask ...

TB: I'm sorry, Darren, but I really am not going to fall into the trap of talking about the family. I hope you understand.

DA: No, of course I do. I have children of my own and ...

TB: But do you know what excites me the most?

DA: (hopefully) No?

TB: Playing a part in building a world for the future. That's the best bit. Easily.

DA: Prime Minister, thank you very much. I'll just turn the tape off now. There. One thing I don't quite understand though.

TB: What's that?

DA: How come that Anne Applebaum from the Evening Standard got invited to your big celebs bash on Wednesday - when she's always disliked you - and someone like me, who is your greatest fan, didn't?

Alastair Campbell: Look in the mirror, big man. Too many cameras.

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