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Published on Sep 27, 2010
As if finally liberated from the bonds of public doubt and scepticism, the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, rose up to deliver a career-defining speech to the nation from outside Downing Street:
'Frankly, the main mood [in Downing Street] is of unbridled relief', he began. 'I've been watching ministers wander around with smiles like split watermelons.' (BBC News At Ten, April 9, 2003)
The fact that Marr delivered this with his own happy smile was a portent of what was to come. Marr was asked to describe the significance of the fall of Baghdad. This is what he said:
'Well, I think this does one thing - it draws a line under what, before the war, had been a period of... well, a faint air of pointlessness, almost, was hanging over Downing Street. There were all these slightly tawdry arguments and scandals. That is now history. Mr Blair is well aware that all his critics out there in the party and beyond aren't going to thank him - because they're only human - for being right when they've been wrong. And he knows that there might be trouble ahead, as I said. But I think this is very, very important for him. It gives him a new freedom and a new self-confidence. He confronted many critics.
'I don't think anybody after this is going to be able to say of Tony Blair that he's somebody who is driven by the drift of public opinion, or focus groups, or opinion polls. He took all of those on. He said that they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right. And it would be entirely ungracious, even for his critics, not to acknowledge that tonight he stands as a larger man and a stronger prime minister as a result.' (Marr, BBC 1, News At Ten, April 9, 2003)
Extract from 'Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media' by David Edwards and David Cromwell (Pluto Books, 2006), pp. 52-53.