McCririck stands by attack on Blair

 

Racing pundit John McCririck has stood by his attack on British prime minister Mr Tony Blair for not attending Robin Cook's funeral.

Mr McCririck shocked mourners by accusing the Prime Minister of a "petty vindictiveness and a moral failure" in not breaking his holiday to attend the Edinburgh service.

His comment brought a ripple of applause among those listening to the ceremony on speakers outside.

However, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain called it a "completely uncalled for remark that was out of tune with the whole gathering and the feeling in the Cathedral resented it deeply".

Mr McCririck, a close friend of Mr Cook, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he "certainly did not" regret his words and would do the same again "with reservations".

"Of course the Downing Street spin machine has been coming out and saying the family were against it," he said. "I know that personally to be untrue. One member of the family, very close, said it needed to be said, thank you very much."

Mr McCririck accused Cabinet ministers of repeating the Downing Street "spin" while actually agreeing with him.

Mr Blair would have attended if he was not standing down as PM, the racing pundit claimed.

Mr McCririck conceded the timings and place of his remark may have not been perfect.

"That is my only concern, not about what was said, it needed to be said, and you can certainly argue it should not have been made then."