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'World scoop' for Northern Echo as Blair gives only interview on last day

Tony Blair chose to give only one media interview on his final day as Prime Minister – and it was to his local paper, The Northern Echo.

The paper’s editor Peter Barron and political editor Chris Lloyd were invited to join their local MP on the train taking him from London back to his North-East constituency on Wednesday evening.

On the leg of the journey between York and Darlington, he revealed his plans for the future, and his thoughts about his ten years in office.

He spoke about the enormous debt that he has to the people of the North-East, but promised that this was not goodbye as he plans to start a sports foundation in the region.

He explained what he hoped would be his domestic legacy and about why Britain had to change its mindset if it is to confront the evil of terrorism.

The paper also revealed that there was an uncomfortable moment at Darlington railway station when the former Prime Minister discovered that there was no official car waiting for him.

Chris, who has been the paper’s political editor throughout Blair’s tenure at No10 and before that, asked him about his plans for the future, and details on his new job as peace envoy.

He also discovered how the premier’s last day had been and what the Queen had said.

Mr Blair told him: “I should not break the convention, but it was a very warm and generous greeting on her part and I expressed my thanks to her for having been so good to me over the years. We have always had a very good relationship.”

He also commented on the standing ovation from the House of Commons – which was unusual in that opposition benches broke with convention to join in.

He told Chris: “I was shocked, but very pleasantly so. It is very typical of the House of Commons coming together on occasions like that. Maybe you become a little emotional, when you suddenly realise that these are the last words you are ever going to say not just from the Despatch Box but in the House of Commons, which after all is the mother of democracy and the most famous political institution in the world. What do you say at the end?”

And when asked about whether he was penning his memoirs, Cherie chipped in from across the carriage: “His life’s not finished yet!”

Chris Lloyd’s interview also prompted a detailed discussion on how Tony Blair saw his own political and social legacy.

Mr Blair said: “The Conservatives have had to come to terms with us rather than the other way round.”

The full 1,600-word interview will be in the Northern Echo today.