PM uses video to reveal stress and strain of life at No 10
Tuesday 03 January 2006
The video, entitled A Day in the Life - an exclusive insight into the PM's working life, was posted yesterday morning on the Downing Street website. In it, Mr Blair admitted: "The hours are very long. I've never actually totted up the hours I do in any week, it's probably not lawful under some directive or other."
It was a gentle beginning to what will quickly become a difficult parliamentary session when MPs return next week and the argument resumes over his controversial plan to reform the state school system.
Government whips are also nervous about proposed reforms to the welfare state, including plans to reduce the £12bn cost of incapacity benefit, which will be published later this month, although some of the most controversial ideas mooted by Downing Street have been dropped. The benefit is to be made conditional on claimants co-operating with government schemes to help them back into employment.
John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, sought to head off trouble from Labour's back benches by publishing statistics showing that the areas with the largest numbers claiming to be off work with long-term illness were also the areas with the highest rates of unemployment and other social problems. "The clear link between benefit dependency and hardship is striking."
Mr Hutton wrote to the 100 MPs with the largest number of constituents on incapacity benefit pleading for their support. Heading the list was the Labour MP David Marshall, whose East Glasgow seat has 11,300 claiming long-term sickness. All but six are Labour MPs, and only one - the Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner - is a Conservative.
Many Labour MPs are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the May council elections. With the polls showing the Conservatives enjoying a political recovery under David Cameron, it is feared that hundreds of Labour councillors will lose their seats, and that many councils long held by Labour, including several London boroughs, will fall into Tory hands.
But in the video, a relaxed Mr Blair hints that his Tory rival is still untested as a potential prime minister. "Being Leader of the Opposition does not prepare you quite adequately for the difficulty of doing the prime minister's job, just because it's completely a different order of stress, challenge, pressure," he said.
"What is worthwhile is getting things done. And when you get things done and you see results, and you think, well, in part, that happened as a result of something I did, or we did, or decisions that were taken here, that's what makes everything worthwhile and it's an enormous privilege to be able to do it."
The video includes the first footage of a cabinet meeting, although it is not possible to hear what is being said. Mr Blair is seen with jacket off, talking informally to the camera, interspersed with shots of him visiting a hospital, taking Prime Minister's Questions, and meeting world leaders. He also talks of the pressure of being constantly in the public eye.
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