The Clinton-Blair calls: from bananas to moose lips

Telephone calls reveal the unique relationship between the two world leaders

Tony Blair Bill Clinton
(Image credit: Carl de Souza/Getty)

Transcripts of phone calls between former US President Bill Clinton and ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair when they were both in power have been released, showing the close personal relationship between the two men.

The calls reveal the world leaders' discussions over issue such as Northern Ireland and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

However, it's not the insight into world politics that is attracting attention, but the inconsequential chatter around it.

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Their banter reveals Clinton's obsession with bananas as well as the Blairs' babysitting needs – and even former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's penchant for moose lips. Here are five of the oddest topics:

The banana fixation

Bananas seem to be a private joke between the two men and warrant at least five mentions. Strangest of all is an exchange that comes just after Clinton tells Blair that Vice-President Al Gore was "very happy" to see a bowl of the fruit in MP John Prescott's office while making an official visit to the UK.

Clinton: My staff won't let me talk to you unless I have a banana at hand. I'm sitting here with a banana; it's a big, ugly, brownish one.

Blair: Now, Bill, I thought we should have a word about Kosovo.

Clinton the babysitter

Included in the transcripts, released by the Clinton Presidential Library in response to a request by the BBC's Martin Rosenbaum, is a call made just after the announcement that Blair's wife Cherie was pregnant again, 12 years after having their third child, Kathryn.

Clinton: Hello, 'Dad', how are you doing?

Blair: I am preparing.

Clinton: You know, after January, I'm available for babysitting duties.

Blair: I wouldn't say that or you'll be doing it.

After Blair tells Clinton he feels as if his life is "about to begin again", the American reassures him that it's "a great thing" and the exchange concludes with the Prime Minister observing: "Right, Bill, we'll put you down on the babysitting list now." Son Leo was born on 20 May, 2000.

The Russian President eats moose lips

This may not be the most startling news in the documents: if any world leader has ever seemed likely to eat moose lips, it's Boris Yeltsin.

Clinton: We are arranging dinner at a place called The Fort that specialises in buffalo meat, which is low fat. When I had lunch with Boris, he served roast pig and told me real men hack off the ears and eat them. And once he served 24 courses, including moose lips.

Blair: It is time to get ready for the press conference.

Blair's 'choirboy' looks

In one of the calls, Blair tells Clinton he is speaking to him from a working men's club in his County Durham constituency.

Blair: I just came out of a bar where the old blokes were telling me about their troubles; from that to you.

Clinton: Good for you. I love Durham.

Blair: Did you come here?

Clinton: I did. I liked it so well I brought [wife] Hillary back to see the cathedral and walk around the town. I took her to York and Durham on one of our trips.

Blair: Oh, well. I was a choirboy at the cathedral in Durham, if you can believe that.

Clinton: You still have that choirboy look.

Clinton phones Blair while watching The Pink Panther

After leaving office - and relegated to a supporting role as husband of wannabe Democratic presidential candidate Hillary – Clinton comes across as the chattier of the two men in their discussions, with Blair frequently having to move him on to matters of business. In one exchange, he seems to be watching television at the same time as making the transatlantic call.

Blair: Hi, Bill. How are you doing?

Clinton: I'm great. I'm watching the end of an old Peter Sellers movie.

Blair: Which one?

Clinton: I can't tell. I've only seen about five minutes. But Herbert Long just disappeared along with a castle.

Blair: Pink Panther, I think.

Clinton: I think it's the second one. It's funny as hell.

Blair: He was so funny, Peter Sellers. Anyway…

Clinton: I just wanted to put you in a good humour since you're dealing with Northern Ireland.

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