Interview With British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw by Joe Riley of the Liverpool EchoSecretary Condoleezza Rice
April 1, 2006
QUESTION:Do you feel in a sense that you've been on holiday? Because you must know the route from Liverpool to Blackburn now. You could drive about an hour.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, yes, I think I could drive it. And indeed it's been a little bit of a holiday because even though we've done lots of work and gotten lots of work done, the speech, and it's been wonderful to be here in Liverpool. This is a wonderful city.
QUESTION: I mean, the whole point, wasn't it, was to see Britain beyond the capital, because capital cities tend to be cosmopolitan, they could be anywhere. Do you feel you've seen a little bit of the real England?
SECRETARY RICE: I feel that I've certainly seen -- and yes, I'd like to see other parts of the real England, but northwest England is something that -- I don't know what I thought I would see, but it's quite unlike I would have imagined.
QUESTION: Hills, mountains, satanic mills.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, mountains, green. Well, I think I probably thought a bit grimy and still kind of industrial in that grimy sense, and you look and it's a beautiful city that's growing again that's overcome its difficulties. Its reminds me a little bit of what I showed Jack when we went to my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, also an industrial city.
QUESTION: And regeneration.
SECRETARY RICE: And regenerating, right
QUESTION: And of course, you both have the local connections. You worked politically very early in your career here, didn't you, Secretary?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: I worked for Granada, yes.
QUESTION: That's right.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Yes, Liverpool and (Inaudible)
QUESTION: And then in your musical sense, your first record was a Beatles record, I hear?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think my first record was Mozart. My mother --
QUESTION: How nice.
SECRETARY RICE: But I had the first Beatles album. I remember my -- making my father take me down to the store to buy it.
QUESTION: And I suppose really that the American conception of what is the Beatles and football maybe?
SECRETARY RICE: You hear mostly of the Beatles or football, that's right. But what I hadn't realized about Liverpool was -- I knew it was a world class musical center because of the Beatles, but it's a world class classical musical center.
QUESTION: Yes, it is.
SECRETARY RICE: I went to a spectacular concert last night, literally a world class orchestra, and you have a great young conductor who is very young but he's terrific. And so this was great for me.
QUESTION: You went to LIPA, of course, Paul McCartney's college.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: You were going to, we were told, of course, play the piano there. You didn't have a chance. You listened to a gospel choir, you haven’t played the piano for a while.
SECRETARY RICE: I listened to a gospel choir, listened to a rock band. I can't think of anything actually more intimidating than being a rock band in Liverpool, but they were great. And then saw some of the students mixing sound, so we saw quite a lot.
QUESTION: Now, that's sort of enjoyable entertainment. There's a sort of hard reality to coming to a place like this. We have a slavery museum. You've seen it. And normally museums are to celebrate in every sense the past. Celebrate is a strange word to use maybe for a slavery museum. Do you think there's a need for things like that?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, absolutely. And here again I think there's a connection between Liverpool and my home city. This is a city that's also had to overcome a past of which it's not particularly proud. Birmingham had a past of which it's not particularly proud. I think museums like the slavery museum here or the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham help cities overcome. They help resolve their history.
QUESTION: Do you think they -- are they a warning that this sort of thing mustn't happen again, like the Holocaust museums?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's absolutely a warning that when -- someone once said when good people don't act, bad things happen.
SECRETARY RICE: And very often it's the silence of good people that allows bad things to happen.
QUESTION: Now, you've had a hectic schedule. What -- maybe it's a strange word to use, but what do you think you've learned on this trip, both in Blackburn and here? I mean, it's a seeing and doing. What do you hope you've --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I've certainly learned that there is a very vibrant and interesting city outside of London. Really, the only other place I'd ever been was Colchester and then I've been to London. And a city that reminds me a lot of some of the great port cities of the United States. It reminds me actually physically -- the museum director and I were talking about it -- physically a little bit like Chicago, with the great architecture and the revitalization. It's a part of England I probably would never have seen.
I also had a chance when I was in Blackburn to meet with members of the Muslim community. So this is clearly an ethnically diverse area where people of different faiths and different ethnicities are living together in harmony. That's a good thing to see. So it's been quite a spectacular visit.
QUESTION: I suppose the protests inevitably goes with the job no matter where, not just in these three days but anywhere really.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: In that sense, do either of you ever take it sort of rather personally? Is it hurtful? I mean, you have to defend it; you have to justify some of the things that your governments have done, but I mean, you also can't ignore the protests or say they're, you know, casual. It was quite a rowdy scene outside the Philharmonic last night.
SECRETARY RICE: No, I don't take it personally. I know that people associate me with policies with which they disagree and it's part of democracy that they get to express that. But of course, it's not the first protest I've seen. It's not going to be the last.
QUESTION: Mr. Straw, what do you think about that? I mean, you came to show the Secretary of State the positive side to Liverpool. What do you think of it?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, I mean, democracy is the most positive aspect or characteristic of this country and the United States, without which if you haven't got democracy, nothing else really great would have happened.
I've been explaining to the Secretary all the demonstrations that I used to go on, including a huge one in Liverpool. I mean, absolutely massive.
QUESTION: What was that for?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: It was against unemployment and Mrs. Thatcher, if you remember, in the early 1980s. I mean, half a million people.
QUESTION: You were on that?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Yeah, sure, as a member of parliament for Blackburn. But actually, the thing that surprised me about the demonstrations was that although they were noisy, they were much smaller than I had anticipated or that the organizers has predicted. And what you don't see so much of us a number of people on the streets waving, showing spontaneous support for the Secretary's visit. In Blackburn today, you've got a -- it's a smaller place. You've got the town hall, public space outside. You had protestors there. Also -- something I'd never, ever anticipated would happen -- an equally large demonstration, spontaneous, by Blackburnians just coming to show their support for the Secretary. It was really --
SECRETARY RICE: It was very nice.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: It was great. I may say that there was a -- there were outsiders at the demonstration.
QUESTION: In both cities, actually.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: I saw somebody holding up a placard, "Burn me," against (inaudible), which is quite a courageous thing to do in Blackburn. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Being a Liverpool journalist, can I ask that, you know, in the sense that one of the reasons Iran featured on placards last night is because that's – we’ve heard your interviews so we won't go through it again, in a sense, but because that's something that's not resolved or done yet, the people probably feel that by demonstrating they may actually be able to influence you at something yet to happen. Do you take that sort of protest seriously? You don't just look at it; you must think about it as well and talk about it even.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course you think about the issues and you think about the consequences of what you might do or what the President and the Prime Minister might do. And it's a time to think and reflect, but we're also very hard at the diplomacy.
QUESTION: Have you been working together this weekend as well as --
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Laughter.) Don't forget, we started this event Thursday morning. Secretary Rice had flown in overnight from Washington.
SECRETARY RICE: Washington, yes.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: To Berlin. I went to Berlin, but a much shorter journey. So we spent a good chunk of the day negotiating with our Russian, Chinese, German and French colleagues. And then --
SECRETARY RICE: And then I had seen Chancellor Merkel and I flew then to Paris to see President Chirac before flying here.
QUESTION: Busy, busy.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Just two very quick final questions. Because you are working together, you're each doing your individual jobs, the sort of jobs you never stop doing. You say you've been having -- is it red boxes at (inaudible)?
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: You’ve been having communications, have you so?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: So work goes on in that sense. But although it's a working thing and it's at your invitation, it is a semi-official thing. It's not like going on a state visit and going to Buckingham Palace and the Queen; it's been more friendly and down informal than that. But what do you say if people say it's like political PR? It is political PR? What's going on? (Laughter.) I don't mean that discourteously.
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, no, I understand. Well, first of all, I think it's extremely important that Secretaries of State, Foreign Ministers, get outside of capitals when they go to other countries. You know and you feel a different Britain, a different England, if you do that.
It's also important to get out and to talk to people outside of capitals. And one of the really wonderful events that I had was the event with Muslim leaders early today and particularly with women who were concerned about issues of women's empowerment. I can sit in my office and read all of the reports that come to me and all of the telegrams that come to me and all of the intelligence reports that come to me, and never meet a single living human being. And I suppose that would be one way to do my job, but I actually think getting out and meeting people -- I actually travel around in the United States as well and do local media and talk to local leaders, because I happen to think that the human contact is a pretty important part of my job, too.
QUESTION: Very good. Well, I'm not going to ask you about presidency. I've heard you deny it this morning. I heard the James Naughtie interview yesterday. (Laughter.) But I will say, if you want to go back into academia, we have four good universities. Maybe you'd consider coming back to Liverpool one day to give a lecture.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'll tell you that --
QUESTION: Would you like to -- how would you like to maintain a link with Liverpool anyway?
SECRETARY RICE: It would be wonderful. I would love to come back here and give a lecture. I'd love to come back and hear that terrific symphony in a few years.
QUESTION: Well, we do have a lecture series.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. And I'll tell you something. When I was a young academic, I did come here at the invitation of the British Society at that time for the study of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, which --
QUESTION: You came to this country?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes, it shows what a bit of a dinosaur I am. And I got a chance to be in Colchester and Oxford and Cambridge and London, but it would be great to come back to Liverpool and lecture.
QUESTION: Thank you for your time.
FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.
Released on April 2, 2006