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Former British prime minister Tony Blair (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Former British prime minister Tony Blair (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Transcript

Interview: Tony Blair, on his faith and religious ideology Add to ...

Geiger: You write in your memoir that, and I quote, "I have always been more interested in religion than politics..." You don't really develop this thought in the book, however, and I suspect it will startle many people, given your success in politics. If this is the case, why did you not set out to become, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster?

Blair: I know, it's slightly strange, isn't it.

Geiger: And I suspect it will startle many who will see you, and this is a compliment, but as very much a political animal and if this is indeed the case why didn't you set out to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Westminster? Why secular politics?

Blair: I'm not a good enough person to assume that type of role. You know I often say to people about this, that I believe in the power of politics to change the world. And as you rightly say I'm very much a political animal. If you ask me what I read most about, I read most about religion. And It interests me enormously. On the other hand, I always used to say to people, that God doesn't tell you the policy answers. That's in the realm of politics. And so one sense, and people have said about my book, that there isn't much about religion in it. And that's because in the end your faith is part of what you are, it's part of what you carry, it's part of your belief system. It doesn't really, it can't, I'm afraid, write the white paper on education policy for you.

Geiger: Now you attended Roman Catholic mass while you were prime minister but you didn't take that final step, conversion, acceptance into or being received into the Roman Catholic church until after you had left office. And I wondered if, you know, this raises the inference that it would have been politically inexpedient for you to be a Roman Catholic prime minister which itself raises questions about the limits of religious tolerance, of religious affiliation, even today in a country like the United Kingdom which is obviously a highly secular country despite of the establishment of the church.

Blair: It wasn't that it would be deeply controversial at all. Look, I never made any secret of the fact I went to mass, and my wife's a Catholic, my kids were brought up Catholics and went to a Catholic school. I wasn't, for reasons of religious controversy, not doing it. It's just, to be absolutely blunt about it -- and I'm simply being honest with people about it -- I had so many things, issues I dealing with, I didn't really want to put that one on the table at the same time because I just knew I would have endless explanations to make and conspiracy theories about why I decided to do it and all sorts of stuff written about what I believed about the establishment of the church of England and so on. So really, I mean this may reflect to my discredit, I don't know, but I just literally decided it was something I didn't want to have as an additional issue alongside all the other issues I had. But, you know, I've been attending mass for 25 years and it was a completely logical step for me to be able to take communion in a Catholic church along with my family.

Geiger: Is there someone in politics, someone you've known who best exemplifies faith [in]public service, someone you've looked to as an example or inspiration?

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