A Freedom of Information request has led to the release of transcripts that shine a light on the relationship between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair from the time of the latter’s election in May 1997 until the inauguration of George W Bush in January 2000. The men discussed Princess Diana, Kosovo, babysitting, golf and bananas and the disclosure reveals what appears to be a genuinely friendly relationship between the two men.
One of the early exchanges is about Princess Diana, who died in a car accident shortly after Blair came to office. The Prime Minister expressed concern for the future of her sons, William and Harry, and described the older boy as more like his mother, as he liked to do things that “ordinary” boys enjoy. Interestingly, when Clinton asks Blair about Diana’s family, the response has been redacted, and the conversation then moves onto the peace process in Northern Ireland, which was a preoccupation of the president during his second term.
What is clear from the transcripts is that both men are familiar with the other’s personal life. When Clinton asks Blair to bear with him for a moment, the Prime Minister knows that it is so he can let out Buddy, the family dog. Similarly, the two men discuss the pregnancy of the Prime Minister’s wife, Cherie, in a conversation that sees him describe his wife as “pretty large” and the President offering to babysit, as he is going to have some “free time” once his term expires.
Clinton is also knowledgeable about British politics, asking about Prime Minister’s Questions and a government reshuffle that saw the departure of former Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, who the president described as able to make people laugh when she “pissed them off.”
Bananas also get a mention, and are a frequent source of discussion. For example, Blair recounts how Al Gore, the vice-president, was amused by the fact that a bowl of bananas was the sole form of decoration in the office of the British Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. In another section, a redacted comment is followed by Clinton asking if he needs to buy a cashmere sweater. Blair then says no, and then says not to buy bananas either.
The banana exchanges were probably the inspiration for a spoof transcript by Michael Spicer, who portrays Clinton as a plate spinner, bowler and puncher of ham.