‘The police say they have a “shoot-to-kill-to-protect policy”. Were you made aware of that policy and is it something that parliament should have been made aware of?’
This was the question from a journalist at the prime minister’s monthly press conference yesterday.
Blair replied: ‘I’m not sure of the history of this. I cannot tell you whether it came across my desk.’
He added: ‘But the police are taking no risks, and that’s a sensible policy.’
Taking in his stride the fact that a member of the public received seven bullets fired to the head and one to the back because of this policy, Blair continued: ‘They should take whatever measures are necessary to protect the public.’
He added: ‘If they had talked to me about it I would have agreed. . . The police can’t take risks and we’ve got to support them.’
Blair launched the press conference with a tirade against the ‘warped reasoning’ of ‘terrorists’ anywhere in the world saying: ‘Whether it’s Iraq or Afghanistan or Palestine, whatever excuse or justification these people use, we should not give one inch to them.’
He claimed ‘there is no justification for killing people in Israel’ and stressed that ‘it’s impossible to negotiate with extremists’.
Blair was asked what was the difference between the recent London bombings and ‘an equally vicious and ruthless campaign by the IRA in the 70s, 80s, and 90s?’
Blair replied: ‘Terrorism is wrong, full stop, the killing of innocent civilians.’
He added: ‘But I don’t think you can compare the political demands of Republicanism with the political demands of this terrorist ideology we’re facing now.
‘The political demands of Republicanism are demands that would be shared by many perfectly law-abiding people who are nationalists.
‘These terrorists have demands, but they’re none that any serious person could ever negotiate on.’
He claimed: ‘There is another difference. September 11th was the time when policy had to change definitively.
‘I don’t think the IRA would ever have set out to kill 3,000 people. Modern technology and a willingness to kill without limit makes this an appreciably different threat.’
One journalist pointed out to Blair: ‘These terrorists do have real demands too. The IRA wanted us out of Ireland, and a lot of these people just want us, rightly or wrongly, out of the Middle East, out of Islam.
‘And everybody in this room knows that, except apparently you.
‘They do, many of them, have negotiable demands.’
Blair responded: ‘I think I did say that they have negotiable demands.’
‘No you didn’t’ insisted the journalist, ‘You said you couldn’t deal with them. They were impossible.’
Blair replied to this challenge: ‘No, what I think is, they do indeed have demands but they are not demands any sensible person could negotiate.
‘The reason for negotiating with the IRA has nothing to do with terrorism.
‘The reason for being prepared to enter into a dialogue with Republicanism is because you’ve got – you do have a demand that is – you may agree or disagree with it, but you can hardly say it’s a demand no sensible person would negotiate.’
Blair also stated that he would not set any date for the beginning of a withdrawal from Iraq.
He added that the government is looking at powers to deal with bookshops and publications that incite terrorism.