Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Need a Focus Group, Says Blair Poking Fun at Charles

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

I Need a Focus Group, Says Blair Poking Fun at Charles

Article excerpt

Byline: ISABEL OAKESHOTT;JOE MURPHY

TONY BLAIR today publicly mocked Charles's private journal in which the Prince revealed his thoughts about the Labour government.

At his monthly press conference, the Prime Minister was asked if Charles's reputation had been damaged by his outspoken diaries.

Mr Blair froze for several seconds as though unsure of his answer, before replying with what appeared to be a sarcastic joke at Charles's expense.

"I don't know if I can answer that question until I've had the focus group," he said, to laughter and gasps of astonishment.

It was an explicit reference to a section of the Prince's journal which mocked New Labour's style of government and use of focus groups.

Charles was also critical, in his account of the handover of Hong Kong to China, of Labour's decision to axe the royal yacht Britannia.

Government decisions were taken, he wrote, "based on market research and focus groups, on the papers produced by political advisers and civil servants, none of whom will have ever experienced what it is they are taking decisions about".

He also made some warm personal comments about the Prime Minister, saying: "He also gives the impression of listening to what one says, which I find astonishing."

Similarly, Mr Blair was careful to follow his barbedsounding joke with some heavy compliments. He said: "Prince Charles does an amazing job for the country.

"If you look at the Prince's Trust, it's probably one of the most successful voluntary sector organisations in the world, never mind in this country, and he's perfectly entitled to express his views. …

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