Blair may cancel book signing amid protest threat

Blair may cancel book signing amid protest threat

Former British prime minister Tony Blair is considering cancelling a high-profile signing session of his new memoir because of planned protests, he said today.

Mr Blair said he was concerned about the potential “hassle and cost” to the police of pressing ahead with Wednesday’s central London event.

Eggs and shoes were thrown by demonstrators at a previous signing in Dublin and anti-war groups have promised a mass protest outside the Waterstone’s store in Piccadilly.

The ex-PM said it was “sad” that people wanted to disrupt such events but indicated he may call it off amid evidence that other hostile groups were set to join in.

Speaking on ITV1’s new 'Daybreak' programme about his book – A Journey – he said: “To be frank about it, I am concerned. I do not want to put everyone through a lot of cost and hassle on this Wednesday’s signing so I am thinking about that.”

He said the Metropolitan Police were “fabulous and they will do whatever we ask them to do” but should not be asked to commit resources unnecessarily.

“The book is selling fantastically. There are people – particularly now the BNP apparently say they want to get in on the action – you end up just causing a lot of hassle for people and cost when there are better things for the police to do and it’s not as if we need to do it.

“It is sad at the same time, frankly. If people want to have a book signed, people should protest but not try and physically prevent you doing it.”

Mr Blair conceded it would be "very difficult'' for him to return to political life but said he would ``love to'' be involved in some way.

Asked about apparent hints of a comeback, he said: “What did I have in mind when I said that? I don’t know actually because I am sure it would be very difficult for me to play a part here.

“But what I really wanted to say was that I remain deeply committed to the country. I love this country and I want to see it do well.”

His “new life” outside domestic politics had shown him that Britain had “a lot that we need to do to prepare for the future”, he said.

“Frankly, I doubt there is a way I can play a part but if I can I would love to.”

Mr Blair chose the launch edition of the new breakfast show for his first live TV interview in the UK since the publication of the book.

He also used a newspaper interview to launch an attack today on the liberal prison policies being pursued by the coalition Government.

Mr Blair – who famously promised to be “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime” – said he “profoundly disagrees” with the approach of Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who has rejected the “prison works” mantra of previous administrations.

The former PM’s comments, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, amount to his first direct policy assault on the coalition since David Cameron won power from Labour in May.

Mr Clarke has challenged the trend towards larger prison populations and questioned the need for short sentences, suggesting the Government could save money by locking up fewer offenders and focusing more on rehabilitation.

But Mr Blair told the Telegraph: “You’ve got to put in prison those who deserve to be there.”

He said “dysfunctional families who produce 14-year-old kids stabbing one another to death” are “making people’s lives hell” and suggested Britain could learn from developing countries which “just don’t accept” criminality.

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