POLITICS students and police officers had a once in a lifetime chance to quiz and air their views to former Prime Minister Tony Blair when he stopped off to find out about education and policing in the Black Country.

Students at Dudley College had chance to question the former Labour PM about the most difficult decisions he had to make during his time in office when he visited the college’s Advance campus in Priory Road as part of a fact finding mission.

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Addressing a roomful of teenagers who were not afraid to ask difficult questions of the man who led Britain to war in Iraq and Afghanistan – Mr Blair wasted no time in admitting the “life and death” decisions relating to war and peace were by far the “worst” and he confessed: “Particularly post-911 it was very hard to know how to deal with it.”

He added: “Government is a very difficult business – you’re dealing with really complicated decisions and whatever you decide someone’s going to disagree with you.”

And he told the students: “The irony about politics is that at the beginning you are at your most popular and least capable – at the end you’re less popular and most capable.”

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Since stepping down as Prime Minister after ten years in the top job, Mr Blair has spent most of his time working as a peace envoy in the Middle East and more recently he founded the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change to help tackle some of the challenges facing the world today.

He told the News his visit to the borough was about finding out about the right policies for the country and about seeing how young people are using technology in Dudley at what he described as an “extraordinary and outstanding college” and how they can best gain the skills they need for the future.

Lowell Williams, chief executive officer at Dudley College of Technology (pictured below, centre, with Mr Blair), described the former Prime Minister’s visit as a “marvellous once in a lifetime opportunity for our students to meet with Mr Blair and showcase the best of what Dudley has to offer” and he said he welcomed “the fact that he spoke with passion about the role education has to play in shaping life opportunities”.

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He added: “It was refreshing to hear such common sense from a politician – we need more of this approach from our future politicians.”

Earlier in the day Mr Blair met with police officers including new Chief Superintendent Sally Bourner at Brierley Hill Police Station to learn about the stresses and strains facing modern day police officers against a backdrop of cutbacks and depleted resources and he said: “Crime is growing and violent crime in particular.

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"The only way to find out what to do about it is to come and talk to people on the front line.

"We’ve had a really good interesting discussion about the problems they are facing here.”

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West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “In eight months we’ve had more homicides here than in the previous year, and we’ve got the biggest increase in car theft in the whole country. We’re under pressure – there’s no doubt about that.”

He said it was good to share some of the concerns with Mr Blair who, he said, listened intently about the problems facing the force and he added: “A lot of politicians like telling people but he is someone who likes to listen to people; and although he’s no longer Prime Minister – he’s very influential in public policy.”

Dudley North MP Ian Austin who arranged the visit said it was “fantastic” to have Mr Blair visit the borough to chat to students and officers.