Blair V Major the Great Election Debate (Round One); Broadcaster Martyn Lewis Recently Interviews Both the Main Party Leaders,toady,at the Start of an Election Campaign Which Promises to Have Live TV Debates between Them as a Centrepiece,he Reveals What They Had to Say
Byline: MARTYN LEWIS
FOR the first time in history there is a possibility that the leaders of the two main parties in Britain will meet head-to-head in live pre-election TV debates.
But while broadcasters and politicians haggle over the details, the Daily Mail can give a foretaste of what is to come.
Martyn Lewis, one of Britain's most respected news broadcasters, has interviewed both John Major and Tony Blair recently for his forthcoming book Reflections on Success, in which famous achievers talk about their route to the top.
Here, in exclusive extracts from those interviews, the two party leaders offer a fascinating insight into their personal beliefs, their ambitions and the battle ahead, starting with Tony Blair.
BLAIR ON ACCESS
Do you think that success is a goal in itself, or must it be tied to a particular vocation?
FOR me it has to be. For example, if we were to win the General Election, obviously that would be a success, but ultimately I would only feel I'd succeeded if I'd achieved something with that victory.
People often say to me: `You've made a big success of your life so far,' and I say to them: `I haven't really, because the purpose in my life is to change things and all I've done is get myself into the position where I've got the opportunity to do that.'
The test for me is not how good an opposition you run, but whether you can run a good government, which is why this interview may be a bit premature. Success to me derives from what you believe your life's purpose to be.
Do you think success derives from life's accidents or that it is a product of a single, relentless determination?
I'M A a great believer in the fact that most achievement is born out of struggle, that it never comes easily. One of the few advantages of the job I do is that you get to meet a broad range of people who are, I suppose, highly successful, or at least at the top of their chosen profession.
With each of them - maybe they're a famous writer or a big business man - you always think they must be sitting back and thinking life is just wonderful, but when you meet them, they're still striving, there's a goal to be achieved.
I'm never quite sure what the interplay is between what is naturally within us and what is the product of circumstance. You can occasionally meet people who, for no particular reason, have been born with enormous drive and determination; but usually you find that the person has been aware that they've had something to overcome, that they've needed the edge that comes from thinking: `I've got to get out there and make something of my life.'
When I think back, I became aware - when my father became very ill when I was ten or 11 - that life can be bad as well as good. There was a sense of insecurity, that life wasn't going to be easy . . .
Are you more likely to be successful if you do have a sense of insecurity?
YES. I don't believe I will ever think: `Right, that's it, I have succeeded.' I think I will always be saying: `I could be doing more, I should be doing more, I've got to do it better.' I think, in the end, very few people I know succeed without a lot of hard work, dedication and application.
What are the qualities needed for a cabinet minister and prime minister?
TO BE able to take decisions sensibly . . . to distinguish between what is and is not important.
As a Leader of the Opposition, you're in a position of executive responsibility, and the great thing is to decide which battles to fight and which not to fight; you have to keep your eye on the big picture. It's the same for a cabinet minister and for a prime minister. You've got to have a very clear set of objectives and goals. You need to have an absolutely clear determination to get there.
What were your biggest failures and how did you recover from them?
CHERIE used to sing the old song `Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again' - and there have been times when I've had setbacks when that's what I've had to do.
I couldn't get into Parliament for a long time, because I was out of kilter with the way the Party was in the early Eighties. I was getting very, very frustrated and going for selections and failing to get anywhere and thinking: `This is hopeless, I'm never going to make it.'
Did you ever consider giving up the quest to be a politician?
NO, I didn't. Because I was absolutely set on it. I was living in London, I was a London barrister, which wasn't a great starting point for most constituencies, and I'd decided to move back to the North-East, because that's where I wanted to go back to represent if I had the chance.
The election was called in 1983 and I was in a desperate state; I could see what was happening to the Labour Party and I just felt I couldn't make it anywhere. I was on the point of going into the Party headquarters and saying: `Look, if any seats come up, it doesn't matter how hopeless, I'll just go in and do something, knock on doors or whatever.'
The Sedgefield seat came up thanks to a fortuitous set of circumstances at the last minute; it was the last seat in the country to select its candidate.
When did you decide your life's purpose?
FAIRLY early on. Politics to me has never been just a job - it is a vocation, it's something youbelieve in. I believe there are certain injustices in our society and I want to see them corrected.
I've been lucky in the sense that my life's purpose is about idealism: most people never get the chance to find their life's success in terms of how they can change the world they live in, but I will have succeeded if, at the end of it, I have changed Britain for the better.
DO YOU think that successful people have to make some family sacrifices?
YES, you see less of your family because you have to work hard. I'm very close to my kids and I see a lot of them and that's great, and I hope it continues no matter what happens. But I would love to see more of them and I can't. That is a sacrifice. I think it's good for children to have a father who's going to talk to them and help them grow up.
My job dictates that I spend time away, or get home late at night, and I start to worry that my children don't have the influence there they should have.
How important is your wife Cherie to your political success?
VERY important. If I didn't have the emotional stability and pleasure from a happy marriage, then I don't think I would be doing what I'm doing at all.
Is it a handicap that she is a working wife?
NO, I rather like that because I think that she brings a different experience, she's got a different way of working. I also think it's important for her happiness. She is brilliant in her own right, she's one of the successful people that I admire; she came from nothing and has done so well and I think she would be unhappy if she were not able to use her ability and brains.
Conversely, some people find emotional unhappiness either easy enough to deal with - or even a spur to them. I don't; if I'm not happy in my home life, I'm not happy at all.
How do you deal with criticism?
I GET upset when it impinges in an intensive personal way, particularly on the family.
But in general, you've got to live with a certain level of criticism.
Some of the criticisms are valid; it is possible to get things wrong, and you should always acknowledge that.
I tend to take the view that newspapers are tomorrow's fish and chip papers for most things, but if the people make a serious criticism, in a serious way, then I will listen to it. I think it's important to listen.
I don't think you should ever bend on fundamental beliefs and convictions. You may decide you are going to do it in a different way because of particular criticisms, but, in the end, I wouldn't want to remain in politics unless I felt I could make a difference in the way that I wanted to.
Are there any ground rules for when you stand firm and when you compromise?
YES. If the objectives are fundamental you don't compromise; if the compromise involves doing something wrong, then don't do it. I think all politicians know the difference between a tactical compromise and a strategic retreat. A tactical compromise is fine, strategic retreats - no, don't do them. If you do, you end up paying a far heavier penalty than you ever think.
Who are your hereos, past and present?
IN POLITICAL terms, Lloyd George, Ernie Bevin, Clement Attlee - in that great period of Government. In broader terms, I was asked the other day about some of my favourite writings and poetry and I mentioned Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a pastor in World War II. I think many of those people who fought then - in the Resistance in circumstances not only of the most acute danger, but when they thought civilisation was about to end - showed courage that was quite extraordinary.
If I had a political hero in a broader sense, Nelson Mandela would just about fit the bill.
When your time comes to leave this life, what would you like people to say about you?
`HE TRIED to make the country better.' You can do no more than try your best, and the goal is to improve the country. It's as simple as that.
JOHN MAJOR ON SUCCESS
What is your definition of a successful politician?
IF YOU measure success simply by progressing to senior positions, that is not necessarily a successful politician. People who have had a constituency and built up a majority; people of whom the electorate will generally say `I don't agree with everything he does, but I think he is a goood Member of Parliament' - I think that is a successful politician.
A successful minister is a different proposition. He certainly has to have the capacity to absorb huge amounts of detail and to pluck from the detail the right path forward.
There is nothing successful about having a wild and reckless vision you can't carry out because you have set up huge blocks of opposition or because you fracture your party in doing so.
And a successful Prime Minister?
JUDGE him by results. Look at his impact on the country. Success sometimes should be measured by the things that do not happen, as well as the things that do happen - the impositions that might have been laid upon this country if we hadn't done something, the impact on this country if difficult decisions hadn't been taken.
So there are two measures of a successful Prime Minister. First, what has happened to living standards and the quality of life in the country, and second, what might have happened if he or she had not taken the decisions that they did.
What do you regard as the most successful moments in your life?
I THINK, politically, the fact that we have moved from being a medium to high inflation country to a low inflation country. That is a sea-change in attitude which if maintained - it could be thrown away - is the biggest single economic change here for 50 years and one that is wholly beneficial.
Providing it is maintained 40 years from now, historians will look back and say that was when it happened, in the early years of the Nineties. It was turbulent, it was nasty, it was very difficult, it caused immense pain and harassment politically at the time, but it was the right thing to do and it was done.
What do you regard as your biggest failures and how did you recover from them?
IN POLITICS, it was when we came out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. I had taken us into the ERM to bring inflation down. As a counter-inflationary measure it worked, but when sterling came out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism it was a huge political setback.
Economically it may yet be judged a success because of what it did to inflation and what that did for the economy, but politically it was a failure.
As you look back on your career, what do you think were the most formative benchmarks that helped you get to where you are now?
IN TERMS of politics, personal experiences give you a determination to try to achieve something. Being unemployed did so too, although I wasn't unemployed for long - months, not years. I was very young and I was single, so I didn't face the difficulties that others do. But it leaves its mark, if it was something you didn't expect to happen, and I didn't.
Beyond that, I think the benchmarks then were how I moved from where I was to where I wanted to get. There was no sudden transformation, it was step by step. Politics is like walking. You keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you get there.
Did you think, right back in the early days, `I want to be Prime Minister?'
NO. I always had a hankering to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. The decisions of the Chancellor are central to how people prosper in this country.
So when the job of Prime Minister become vacant, did you think automatically `I'm going for it', or did you have to be persuaded?
I DIDN'T automatically feel `there is a vacancy, I am going to go for it'. I was persuaded to do so by colleagues. I thought it was too early. I was enjoying myself at the Treasury. I had been there for a year and it was a job I had always wanted.
The timing wasn't convenient, either in political or family terms. Norma and I had teenage children approaching examinations. It was touch and go whether I stood. I might well not have done and supported someone else.
Do you feel that your family have had to make sacrifices because of the way your career has progressed?
YES, undoubtedly. My family have been underpinned by Norma, so I have been very lucky. When I first got into the House of Commons we made the decision that we would have our family home in the constituency, so we were not mobile.
We had a family home that was safe and secure. We agreed that when I was in London during the week, Norma would stay at home with the children so there was stability. We took that decision. We never deviated from it.
We thought that was right for the family. But that certainly was a sacrifice. It meant I personally missed too much of the children growing up.
But we thought it was the best decision for the children.
So a strong partner is an essential ingredient in any politician's success?
MORE value than anyone can possibly know. Absolutely.
You have had a considerable amount of criticism. Do you have some kind of inner mechanism to resist it?
I WENT through the pain barrier a long time ago. I am not influenced by it now. It never influenced significantly any of my policies. It is not a pleasant experience when you first have the full ferocity of the media directed at you and people find it quite a shock. I have become hardened over the years and I am more easily able to put it to one side and ignore it now. The best antidote is meeting the people who write it. They are ordinary people doing a job.
Do you think that the media tend to go for instant judgments, and does that make it more difficult for you to be successful?
OF COURSE, but that is not only true of politics. It is equally true of theatre critics or of sports critics. Look at the way some of England's sportsmen are treated, and yet their critics couldn't remotely perform to the same level.
Neither would they have the understanding of what actually determines that footballer's, that cricketer's, success.
But I do think the criticism is often too concerned with what makes a good story and headline and too little concerned with the extent to which any government, whatever its majority, tends to be hemmed in by the realities of politics, international politics in particular. I don't think there is as much understanding of that among critics as there was some years ago.
A huge amount of time is wasted dealing with short-term stories that may be utterly absurd or just untruthful.
It is time that could have been better used for long-term preparation or discussion with our partners in Europe and beyond about things that are fundamental to Britain's national interest.
But we are a democracy and a democracy requires that politicians are accountable. Therefore its politicians must account for what is happening on a day-to-day basis.
Are you a tough politician?
I'M GENUINELY not a no-holds-barred politician. They do exist - some people are prepared to damn the other side, whatever they do, and assume their side is right, whatever they do. I don't belong to that school of politics.
Who are your heroes and why?
EVERY time I have answered a question like that, it has been psychoanalysed by some loopy psycho-babbler who has produced absolute nonsense which then gets in the cuttings and is used in the most absurd way.
So I will go beyond politics if I may. People like Stephenson: the engineer rather than the author. Robert Louis Stevenson is a great author but he wouldn't have been the one I would have picked.
I think most people know my love of Trollope, but Dickens was a great author as well. If you really want a proper definition of success, to have chronicled your time in the way that Dickens or Trollope or Jane Austen did is truly astonishing.
If you wanted success against all concept of what was really likely, look at the astonishing novels of the Bronte sisters, whose power of story exceeded anything they could have experienced in a tiny vicarage in Yorkshire.
But I admire people who have achieved the sort of things I could never have done. I couldn't have designed The Rocket. I couldn't have designed Brunel's bridges.
These were real pioneers. Whoever conceived originally of the Channel Tunnel, the guy who built the first aeroplane, the man who was either brave or incredibly foolish who first parachuted - these are people one can only admire. They have done what no one had ever done before.
When your time comes to leave this life, what would you like people to say about you?
`HE DID his best. He tried to understand people and he did what he thought was right.' I think if they were able to say that, it is as much as any politician can ask.
* Extracted from Reflections on Success: famous achievers talk about their route to the top. By Martyn Lewis, to be published by Lennard Associates on May 26. (c) Martyn Lewis 1997.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Blair V Major the Great Election Debate (Round One); Broadcaster Martyn Lewis Recently Interviews Both the Main Party Leaders,toady,at the Start of an Election Campaign Which Promises to Have Live TV Debates between Them as a Centrepiece,he Reveals What They Had to Say. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: March 17, 1997. Page number: 22. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.