Blair In South Africa: PM helps to save swimmer

David Lister
Saturday 09 January 1999 00:02

TONY BLAIR has gone where even the boldest spin doctor might fear to position him. It emerged yesterday that Mr Blair helped save a drowning man's life, pulling him out of the sea in the Seychelles and on to the yacht that the Prime Minister had chartered for the day.

Actually the man wasn't exactly drowning but "would soon have been in big trouble" and Mr Blair didn't get into the water to rescue him.

No matter. This was a spin doctor's dream come true. Not only was Mr Blair a hero. But had he returned from holiday earlier to ensure his children were back at school on time then clearly a man might have died.

But some elements of the story did lack the heroic touch. Mr Blair had taken to the water because his mobile phone couldn't get a signal on the beach. The holidaymaker did not recognise his rescuer.

But the skipper of the boat, Gerard Muffard, was effusive in his praise. He explained: "Mr Blair called out and asked him if he needed help, and he said `yes'." He added: "Mr Blair was very calm. He just said to him `We can help you. Where do you want us to take you?' We got the dinghy alongside the man and he was able to climb in, but all three of us [including a bodyguard] gave him extra help to get him into the boat."

Police in the Seychelles capital, Victoria, just said an incident occurred and the Prime Minister hauled the man on board. But then police the world over can be jealous of the drama, publicity and awe generated by a true super-hero.

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