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Interview with Alexis Tsipras Interview with Alastair Campbell

Aired May 18, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Good evening, everyone.

I'm Christiane Amanpour.

And welcome to the weekend edition of our program, when we look over all that we've done this week and select the interviews with people at the center of the very biggest stories.

Later on, we'll get the inside story of Hackergate, the explosive inquiry into the Murdoch press and politics scandal that's rocking Britain. I'll talk to Alistair Campbell, right-hand adviser and spokesman of the former prime minister, Tony Blair.

But first, as Europe appears to be tearing itself apart over the euro, my exclusive interview with the man accused of putting the very notion of Europe at risk.

Alexis Tsipras, just 37 years old, is the radical far left politician who's leading the polls in Greece's emergency election, which is being called for next month. His popularity has soared as he hurled down the gauntlet at the feet of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. He's demanding an end to austerity. And as the week closes, he has a defiant new message for Europe -- continue to fund Greece or we won't pay our debt. And that has potentially catastrophic consequences, with the threat of other countries falling like dominoes, exiting the euro behind Greece.

And it's under this cloud that President Obama is hosting the world's most powerful leaders at the Camp David summit for the G-8 this weekend.

All are afraid that this tempest from the Aegean could blow down the global economy, even as the radical Greek politician, Alexis Tsipras, plays a game of chicken with Angela Merkel.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Tsipras, thank you for joining me from Athens.

Mrs. Merkel has said you either do the reform and the austerity or you are out of the euro.

Do you think that the German chancellor is bluffing?

ALEXIS TSIPRAS, PRESIDENT, SYRIZA PARTY: I don't know what Mrs. -- Madam Merkel wants to do. But I know what we want to do. We don't want Greece outside -- outside Europe. We don't want Greece outside the Eurozone. We want Greece inside the euro and inside Eurozone.

But I believe -- we believe that Madam Merkel puts euro and Eurozone in a big danger by keeping we -- in these austerity measures.

The austerity measures put Europe and the Eurozone in a big danger.

So we want to change the austerity measures, also in Greece and also in Europe. That's what we want to do. And we want to do this with -- in cooperation with the other forces and the -- the -- the people of -- of Europe, the people who want a big change, because everybody now, at this time that, with this policy, we are going directly to the hell. And we want to change this -- this way.

AMANPOUR: You know, you talk about going directly to hell. And a lot of people are concerned, because, obviously, this would be unprecedented, if Greece leaves the euro and goes back to the drachma. Nobody knows what that would mean.

If that happens, what do you think it would mean for Greece and for Europe?

TSIPRAS: We believe that if Greece go back to -- to -- to drachma, that the second day, the other countries in Europe will have the -- the same problem. And I -- I really disagree with a lot of things that Madam Merkel say and do.

But I -- I -- I -- I agree with that that she said. She said before - - before a month -- a month ago, a month before, that if Greece go out of euro, the second day, the markets will find who will be the second. And the second will be Italy or Spain.

Italy has a very big debt, public debt, not like Greece. Greece have 3,500 million euros, but Italy has a debt about 1.9 trillion.

So you can understand what I was meaning when I was telling to you that this road goes to hell.

We don't want Europe to be in -- in -- in a catastrophe way.

So if we want to save Europe, we need to change -- to change these directions.

AMANPOUR: I hear you loud and clear. And you keep saying we do not want to do austerity, we need to change this.

What is your responsibility, as a Greek politician, to make this work?

TSIPRAS: No, I don't believe that we will have a benefit if Greece goes back to the drachma. I don't believe that because as -- as I told you before, the second day, the Eurozone will be in a big disaster.

So I don't -- we don't believe -- we don't want a whole catastrophe of the Eurozone and for Europe.

And, at the same time, we don't want to go back to drachmas because, in Greece, we will have the poor people to have drachmas and the rich people to buy everything with euro.

And this evolution, it will not a good evolution for society and for the people.

We -- we are here to -- to -- to try to be with -- with the majority. And the majority of people need to be in a safe way.

So that's why we don't believe that we will have a benefit with the drachma.


TSIPRAS: It's clear for us, we will be -- we will do whatever we could do in this direction, to keep Greece inside the Eurozone and inside Europe.

But as I told you before, we are watching this situation in -- in -- in the whole view of Europe and the Eurozone. You can understand what will happen if Eurozone will -- will be split -- splitted and if Eurozone will be in -- in this big danger.

AMANPOUR: Right. You said you...


AMANPOUR: You said you're...

TSIPRAS: -- I think that our position is clear in this...

AMANPOUR: It's clear.

TSIPRAS: -- in these questions.

AMANPOUR: It's very clear.


AMANPOUR: But you said you'll do everything that you can do.

Just tell me, what will you do?

TSIPRAS: First of all, we will cancel all -- all Greece's austerity measures in memorandum.

Do you know the memorandum?


TSIPRAS: We will cancel the memorandum. And then we will go to renegotiate, in a European level, about a common way to go out -- to go outside of this crisis.

And we believe that this crisis is not a Greek crisis, but a European crisis. And we will try to find a common solution. And I said to you before, what's -- what's our opinion about the solutions, about the role of ECB, about the Eurobonds, about the negotiation of the debt in the European level of -- of -- of the public debt of -- of all the European countries.

That's -- that's -- that's our opinion. That's our position. And I think it's a clear position.

AMANPOUR: And do you think you'll...

TSIPRAS: Again...

AMANPOUR: -- do you think you'll have partners for that negotiation?

TSIPRAS: Yes, we think that we will find partners. First of all, in -- in the south countries, I think that we'll have the -- the same problem with Italy, with Spain, with Portugal and also with Ireland. And I think that we will find partners -- and also in the Central Europe.

I'm looking very positive, the change in -- in France, with Mr. Hollande's win in the elections. We will try to find -- to find partners. But I think that the situation -- the political situation in Europe will change the next days, especially after the big change in Greece. These...

AMANPOUR: And do you think you'll win?

TSIPRAS: -- these people instead in this -- in this -- in this opinion that we -- we don't want more austerity measures. We -- we can't go on with these austerity measures, because everything is -- is -- was destroyed in Greece. If the Greek people insist in this opinion, I think that everything will change in Europe.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Tsipras, thank you very much, indeed.


AMANPOUR: And all eyes will be on Tsipras as Greece heads into its elections next month.

Unlike Greece, though, Britain never converted to the euro, sticking instead to the pound. And for lovers of tradition, what could be more British than a good old-fashioned Fleet Street scandal?

We'll have the view of the Murdoch phone hacking mess from inside Number Ten, when we return.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

And now to Hackergate in England.

This week, Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the now defunct Rupert Murdoch tabloid, "The News of the World," was charged with perverting the course of justice, plotting to conceal documents, computers and other evidence from police who are investigating the scandal.

Afterward, she was indignant when she faced the media.


REBEKAH BROOKS, FORMER NEWS INTERNATIONAL CHIEF EXECUTIVE: I understand and need and know that there needs to be a proper and thorough investigation. And I am baffled by the decision to charge me today.

However, more importantly, I cannot express my anger enough that those closest to me have been dragged into this unfairly.

One day, the details of this case will emerge and people will see today as nothing more than an expensive sideshow, a waste of public money as a result of an injust and weak decision.


AMANPOUR: That was Rebekah Brooks, also with her husband, who faces a single charge.

Alastair Campbell has also testified before the Leveson Commission, the judicial hearings into the press power relationship in Britain.

Now, he was director of communications for the former prime minister, Tony Blair.

And I spoke to him from London about whether there is a much too cozy relationship between the press and power.


AMANPOUR: Alistair, thank you for being with me.


AMANPOUR: You were at the Leveson Commission. You testified.

Tell me about the relationship -- the cozy, some would say, relationship between the press and power, Murdoch and the government.

CAMPBELL: Well, the first thing to say, this is not just about Rupert Murdoch. Britain, as you know from having lived here, has got a very diverse and very aggressive media. And the print media is still pretty powerful within the media landscape. We have a lot of newspapers in a geographically fairly small country.

There -- a lot of them sell a lot of copies. And I think any political leader has to take account of the role that they play in political debate.

Now, as you say, I was at the Leveson inquiry yesterday. And I was there a few months ago giving evidence for the first time. And I made the point that there's a nexus here between the print and the broadcast media.

The print is still very important in the setting of an agenda. I don't think they have power in the way that politicians have power, but I think any politician in -- in Britain and in most of the advanced democracies who doesn't at least understand the role that the media can play in the setting of an agenda and the terms of a debate, it's just part of the landscape.


CAMPBELL: Now what I hope will come out of this inquiry is a changing of that relationship. I mean I've been arguing for some years that it's got itself into a very, very bad place. And I hope it can lead to change.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, that's -- that's your position. And, indeed, you did write in an op-ed in the "Financial Times" last year in which you talked about a chance to escape Murdoch's embrace.

I want to read you some of how Rebekah Brooks herself summed up on the -- at the -- at the judicial inquiry her contacts with the current prime minister, David Cameron.

Basically she was saying -- and this -- I'm quoting "The New York Times" now, that they talked by telephone, text message, e-mail. They met at lunches and dinners. They socialized at cocktail parties, birthday parties, summer outings, Christmas celebrations, and in one heady instance, on a yacht in Greece.

Is that appropriate?

I'm not talking about legal or illegal, I'm talking about is that an appropriate relationship between a newspaper editor and a prime minister?

CAMPBELL: I think David Cameron is -- is on the record as saying that -- that he got too close. And he says that all politicians got, at times, too close.

I mean, I must say that Tony Blair never had a mobile phone when he was prime minister, so the texting certainly didn't go on.

He would -- I think I said at the inquiry yesterday that in a three year period, from 2002 to 2005, Tony Blair spoke to Rupert Murdoch on the phone six times in total; meetings maybe once, twice, max three times a year, probably, when Rupert Murdoch might be coming through town, if there was a board meeting here, whatever.

But I certainly think that it -- it got too close. And I was interested -- I -- I said in the inquiry yesterday that I remember once at one of our meetings with George Bush in the -- in the run-up to the Iraq War, George Bush asking myself and Tony Blair what Rupert Murdoch was like, because he'd never met him.

And we said, well, you've never met Rupert Murdoch?

He said, no.

And I thought, wow, that's pretty good.

AMANPOUR: Well, what...

CAMPBELL: So I think you -- you do have a -- you do -- I'm not saying that you don't have important media figures in the -- the American landscape, but I think they're maybe just not such a part of the political debate as they've been here.

What I've been arguing is, in a sense, that the political class has got to do a better job of standing up for itself.

I think, to be honest, I mean, because she's not terribly well, what is not meant to speak badly of Margaret Thatcher, but I think a lot of this does go back to the Thatcher era, when the -- the papers were kind of -- it's almost like they were part of her team.


CAMPBELL: And, you know -- sorry.

AMANPOUR: Well, just on that note, it was thought at that time, certainly Rupert Murdoch was described as courting Margaret Thatcher, that she -- it was described as, basically, you know, relaxing some of the laws that enabled him to be able to expand his media empire.

Would you say that that was an accurate description?

CAMPBELL: Well, I think one of the witnesses who was going before the inquiry this week is Harold Evans, who you'll know very well, and was editor of "The Times" and the "Sunday Times." And he's on record as saying that, in his view, something very, very bad did go on in relation to that. So maybe some light will be cast upon on that.

And certainly, I don't think there's any doubt that the -- that the Thatcher government saw Rupert Murdoch as a -- as a very substantial ally in all sorts of ways.

And the truth is, you know, when we were in opposition, we'd been out of power for a long time. The Labor Party that I worked for had really bad relations with the Murdoch press because of all sorts -- for all sorts of historical reasons.

And we did, when Tony took over, we did decide we were going to try a different approach, try to get them in a more reasonable position. Now, we actually managed them -- to persuade them to endorse the election. And they did that for the three elections that Tony Blair fought and won.

And -- but...

AMANPOUR: Well, would you say that helped you win?

CAMPBELL: I think they backed us because they knew we were going to win. We didn't win because they backed us. But it doesn't harm you.

And I think, again, we've got to be realistic about this, particularly, as I say, when you're in a country with a media like ours. And we all believe they're free media. I don't like our media very much, but we all believe in a free media.

And it is there and in the 24 media age or the 24 news, which you know more about than anybody, the Internet and so forth. Then the idea that a political party or a political leader doesn't have to take some consideration of how he or she is coming over in the media is absurd. You do have to do that.

Now what I've...


CAMPBELL: -- one of the reasons we ended up -- sorry.

AMANPOUR: Sorry, I -- I'll let you continue soon.

I want to play these two pieces of testimony, one by Rupert Murdoch and one by yourself, at the Leveson inquiry, and then I want to ask you about them.

Just take a listen.


RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, NEWS CORPORATION: I, in 10 years of his powder (ph), never asked Mr. Blair for anything. Nor, indeed, did I receive any favors. And if you want to check that, I think you should call him.

CAMPBELL: I never was witness to and don't believe that anything -- there was ever a discussion that said, now, Tony, if you do this and you do this and you do this, my papers will back you. It just never happened.


AMANPOUR: So -- so there you are from the horse's mouth, you saying it didn't happen, Murdoch saying it didn't happen.

But, again, I want to ask you what is appropriate?

The British prime minister who you served, Tony Blair, was godfather to Mr. Murdoch's daughter. He also flew around the world a few times, certainly before the first election, to go to meet him. This is documented.

Is that appropriate?

And can the -- somebody who's a businessman, like Murdoch, believe that, perhaps, actually he could have influence, if there was going to be that kind of, certainly, cozy personal relationship?

Godfather, that's...

CAMPBELL: Well, this...

AMANPOUR: -- that's quite cozy.

CAMPBELL: I agree with that. And just on -- just a point of fact on that. That happened after Tony ceased being prime minister. I don't think there's any question that Tony would, had he still been prime minister, would not have done that.

But I accept it shows a -- a closeness. I think, to be absolutely fair, Tony will himself be going to the Leveson inquiry at some stage in the next few weeks. And I think he would probably say that he probably is more friendly with Rupert Murdoch since he was prime minister than when he was prime minister.

And on the point about going to Australia, it was, to make a speech to Murdoch's executives, that's when we were in opposition. I was absolutely of the view that it was the right thing to do, because it was an important platform. It was an opportunity for us to set out our case, not just to Murdoch and his executives, but in so doing, because it was such a controversial thing to do, to get a lot of attention for what we were saying in the basic new labor case that we were putting.

So I actually would -- and I did yesterday, I defended the way that Tony Blair and that relationship with Rupert Murdoch developed.

Now the -- it's obvious why there's so much focus on Murdoch. One, he's the biggest media player in the -- in the British landscape and in plenty of other parts of the world, too. And secondly, because of the phone hacking scandal that led to this inquiry in the first place.

But you have to understand that, you know, there are lots of media owners. And Tony Blair's on record as saying, you know, if you didn't have to spend any time with them, you probably wouldn't.

They're pretty ruthless. They're about themselves. I will quote you yesterday a -- a quote from Paul Keating that's in my diaries from back at that meeting in Australia, where Paul Keating said, "The thing you've got to understand about Rupert is that Rupert's interests are Rupert, one; Rupert, two; Rupert, three; the kids -- the wife and the kids; and then everything else after that."

And people know that's what they're dealing with. It doesn't mean you -- you know, if you're the politician, you know -- Tony Blair once said to me, look -- because I used to advocate the idea that we should actually do something about what the press culture was becoming. I thought it was bad, that it was bad for the country, bad for our democracy.

His view was that most people thought we were getting a pretty good ride, and what's more, there were more important things to deal with.

But he also said if you've got the whole of the press in kill mode, out to kill you as a political leader, that's not a very sensible position to be in. And that's -- and that's pragmatic politics.

AMANPOUR: Well, I believe it was yesterday on the stand you called elements of the media, "frankly putrid." That's colorful Alastair Campbell language.

And I remember being at Tony Blair's last speech, in which he talked about "feral beasts." He called us "feral beasts."

I'm sure you had a hand in writing that.

CAMPBELL: I don't -- I don't think you -- I don't think were in that mix, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Well, whatever. The -- the relationship was very bad.

What, in terms of politicians and the press, what is going to come out of the Leveson inquiry, do you think?

What kind of regulation -- or is there a hope of self-regulation?

Is there a necessity for that?

Do you think it will ever happen?

CAMPBELL: I don't know. But I think it's -- obviously, I mean, this inquiry is getting huge coverage in Britain. And it's amazing, just walking around London, the people who stop and talk to you and say they're following it on the Web site and so forth.

And so I think people realize this is quite an important moment in relation to the development of -- of what our press is.

And, of course, as I said yesterday, the -- the definition of a journalist is changing. You know, smartphones and people can sort of take a picture of you walking down the street. They can put it on Twitter. If they see Piers Morgan out and about doing something that they think he shouldn't be, they can say straightaway, I've just seen Piers Morgan doing such and such. I'm not saying he was doing anything inappropriate, by the way, but whether he fell off his scooter or whatever it was, it went straight onto Twitter, straight onto YouTube.

And so I just think that we're in a different media age. And the regulation -- the point I made yesterday...


CAMPBELL: -- is that it's very difficult to regulate the press in the era of the Internet.

But I think that we've reached this scandal -- this situation because of scandal. And if there isn't some form of proper regulation, then I think the British public will say, well, what the hell's going on?

AMANPOUR: All right.

CAMPBELL: And self-regulation, in this country, has totally failed.

AMANPOUR: Alastair Campbell, thank you very much indeed for joining me.



AMANPOUR: And, finally, as Europe suffers an economic calamity, we're called to revisit the past and remember an even greater catastrophe, a nightmare. Imagine a world where evil is now put on trial.

It's happening in the Hague, where Ratko Mladic faces a war crimes tribunal.

But a judge did suspend the trial on Thursday due to improper disclosure by the prosecution. He hopes to get it restarted as soon as possible.

As for Mladic himself, he is now gray-haired, with reading glasses, looking like any other 70-year-old retiree.

But 20 years ago, when I knew him, he was the swaggering commander of the Bosnian Serb forces that killed hundreds of thousands in the Bosnian war.

As survivors and family members watch this trial start on television, Mladic was shown evidence that he personally ordered the killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica in July of 1995.

And last month, the people of Sarajevo marked the 20th anniversary of the start of the Bosnian war with this dramatic and powerful memorial. They placed 11,541 empty blood-red chairs in the heart of the city -- the city that for more than three-and-a-half years, was besieged, bombarded and shelled by Mladic's forces

This goes to the city's fallen. And some of them were little chairs even for the children who were killed.

The Hague, again, was also the scene as Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president, stands convicted of crimes against humanity and awaits a possible sentence of 80 years.

The scars are still there and the memories are still raw and justice, long delayed, is, nonetheless, being done.

That's it for tonight's program.

Thank you for watching and good-bye from New York.