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'You can't govern by protest' - Tony Blair

Published: 6:11AM Thursday July 28, 2011 Source: ONE News

Tony Blair says world leaders must be prepared to make decisions and "stick to their guns".

Britain's former Prime Minister was greeted by protesters during his whistlestop trip to Auckland today but said that's a consequence of living in democracies.

"You can't govern by've got to do what you think is right."

Blair told TV ONE's Close Up tonight that if you are a decision taker there will inevitably be people who feel very upset.

"Decisions are tough, but leadership's a privilege," he told Mark Sainsbury.

"If you're not prepared to take the pressure, you shouldn't be prepared to sit in the hot seat."

Citing Barack Obama's tough stance on the US debt crisis, Blair said the president is showing leadership and not giving way until the problem is sorted out.

Blair believes people will respond to that.

"If it unnerves you to the degree where you don't take decisions, then that's when you really fail people."

Blair said he has respect for anybody who does the job of prime minister, in any country and of any party.

"If you've sat in that seat you know how damn hard it is."

Watch the full interview here

Speech picketed

Global Peace and Justice Auckland picketed Blair's speech to an audience of businesspeople and politicians at Eden Park today. But Blair avoided an attempt to have him charged with war crimes after protesters said anyone who could get within earshot of him and make a citizens arrest could claim a $4500 bounty offered by a British columnist.

"Several hundred thousand civilians killed and that means that we've got war crimes as a result of an illegal invasion. So we're saying that Tony Blair should face the music. He should go on trial at the international criminal court," veteran activist John Minto said.

The group said the decision was illegal because it was made on the premise that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was later found to be false.

The protesters said his speaking engagement, called "An audience with Tony Blair - lessons in leadership, negotiation and innovation", should have been renamed "supporting a war criminal - lessons in lying, deceit and mass murder."

Inside, Blair told a 300-strong group at a business lunch at Eden Park that the west is having a crisis of confidence. He said the solution to the eurozone crisis and US debt situation is to deal with the underlying problems and not be afraid of reforms.

Blair also talked about the need for peace in the Middle East and said work must be done to press back the influence of Iraq.

There was tight security for his visit with only approved journalists allowed inside, among them ONE News reporter Garth Bray who said the protesters could not be heard from inside the venue.

No cameras or laptops were allowed and there was a heavy police presence at the venue, with officers surrounding the stadium.

Tickets were not cheap - starting at $500 and up to $1500 for a photo opportunity with Blair.

Lunch included a gourmet meal, premium beverages, a pre-cocktail party and a souvenir programme.

Sky City chief executive Nigel Morrison said Blair was a great prime minister for many years and they were  keen to hear what he had to say.

ANZ Bank chairman Sir Dryden Spring said while everyone doesn't agree with Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, Blair is an international statesman.

Media pressure

Blair has admitted to a grudging respect for Rupert Murdoch, saying the power of the media in the UK is such that these people are big players and you have to engage with them.

But the former leader said he is concerned that the focus is on News International. While Murdoch is the most high profile, Blair said there are other newspapers and their proprietors who are very powerful in the UK.

"I think there is an issue to do with the media as a whole and politics and modern democracy.

"If you are a political leader, if they're for you they're totally for you, but if they're against you they go out to destroy you."

Blair believes if there is one good thing that can come out of the phone scandal that brought down the News of the World  it would be to get back to the proper distinction between reporting the news and having comment.

"It's the mixing of those two things that is dangerous," he said.

Blair was uncertain whether the inevitable changes from the scandal will end up with a healthy relationship between politics, the media and democracy. But he said it could and "if it does it will be to everyone's benefit".

Referring to the recent tragedy in Norway , Blair said he believes Europe is experiencing a cultural backlash from the world of globalisation which has seen people pushed together.

"How we make that cultural melange work is probably the most pressing issue of the 21st century," he said.

Globalisation is not going to be wound back, Blair said, pointing out that it is being driven by people not governments.

"This is the world we live in," he said. "People are voting with Facebook, Twitter."

Acknowledging that some people feel threatened, Blair said he is personally excited and is driven by a desire to try to bring people together in some understanding.