Blair: 'God will be my judge on Iraq'

Tony Blair has proclaimed that God will judge whether he was right to send British troops to Iraq, echoing statements from his ally George Bush.

Contradicting warnings from advisers not to mix politics and religion, the Prime Minister said that his interest in politics sprang from his Christianity and its "values and philosophy" had guided him in public life.

Explaining how he managed to live with the decision to go to war in Iraq, Mr Blair replied: "If you have faith about these things then you realise that judgement is made by other people. If you believe in God,it's made by God as well." His remarks, made in an interview to be shown on ITV's Parkinson show tonight, invite comparison with President Bush, a born-again Christian, who has made a virtue of bringing religion into politics. But they also carry the risk of inflaming opinion in the Arab world, where the term "crusader" is commonly used to condemn Christian leaders who meddle in the Middle East.

It is also exactly the sort of comment he has been repeatedly urged not to make for domestic purposes, because of the risk that a sceptical British public will react badly to politicians who appear to be "preaching". Mr Blair was instructed by his former director of communications, Alastair Campbell: "We don't do God."

As well as invoking God as the final judge of the Iraq war, Mr Blair also explained how his religious and political beliefs came to him simultaneously. "There were people at university who got me into politics. I kind of got into religion, politics, at the same time, in a way. And until the age of about 20 I really wasn't very interested in politics at all," he told Michael Parkinson. "That's how I got interested in it."

He refused to accept a description of himself as a "Christian socialist" - but only because the phrase contained the "s" word. "It's a long time since anyone used the word socialist about me," he said.

He agreed that his politics could be described as Christian "in terms of the values and the philosophy". He also confirmed that religion illuminates his politics. "If you have a religious belief, it does - but it's probably best not to take it too far," he said.

Roger Bacon, who has been trying unsuccessfully to meet Tony Blair since his son, Major Matthew Bacon, 34, was killed in Iraq, said last night: "This would explain why he won't see the parents. How can he speak to us when God told him to send the troops out to Iraq so our sons could be killed?"

And Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in Basra in 2004, said she was "quite disgusted" at the comments made by the Prime Minister. The Military Families Against the War campaigner said: "How can he say he is a Christian? A Christian would never put people out there to be killed.

"A good Christian wouldn't be for this war. I'm actually quite disgusted by the comments. It's a joke."

During his eight-year premiership, the only decisions that have caused Mr Blair sleepless nights have been those that involved taking the UK to war, he said. But he added: "The only way you can take a decision like that is to try to do the right thing, according to your conscience. And, for the rest of it, you leave it to the judgement that history will make."

Mr Blair refused to say whether he had prayed for guidance on whether to send British troops into Iraq - which has cost the lives of 103 British troops, 2,300 US soldiers, and up to 30,000 Iraqis, with many thousands maimed or injured, in a conflict which has claimed more lives since the fall of Baghdad than the war itself.

There have been persistent reports that Mr Blair joined the President in prayer for God's guidance at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in 2002, at the summit at which many people believe a secret decision was reached to invade Iraq.

The claim was made in a book by the Christian author Stephen Mansfield, who said he had heard it from White House officials. It was later backed up by a writer on Time magazine, David Aikman.

Mr Bush once told Palestinian leaders: "God would tell me, 'George, go end the tyranny in Iraq' and I did."

Mr Blair's Cabinet includes several deeply committed Christians, such as Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, who is a Roman Catholic, and the Chief Whip, Hilary Armstrong - but they rarely break the injunction not to mix religion and politics publicly.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future