15 June 2011

Thinking paper #17 - Should politicians stop reading Tony Blair’s autobiography?

By Jacinta Burrow


In his attempts to reform public services, a Prime Minister adopts as his mantra “modernise or die”. He wants to get the reorganisation done quickly before it’s too late and he has to leave Downing Street, or before he gets distracted by a foreign war.

Westminster insiders and supporters of the Royal British Legion will recognise this as the plot of Tony Blair’s A Journey. But David Cameron has also borrowed heavily from chapter 16 of Tony’s meisterwerk entitled “Domestic Reform” (pp. 480-511), as well as sections in “Departure” (pp.626-664) and “We Govern in Prose” (pp.200-223), for his proposed changes to the NHS.

So we at IIPBA got to thinking: what can we usefully learn from A Journey? Should it be used as the basis for all future policy making? Was there politics before fake tan?
What can we usefully learn from A Journey?

David Cameron can learn a lot. Being a modern Prime Minister is not only about starting sentences with “look”, drinking tea from a mug and letting photographers join you on your family holiday. Tony Blair managed to sort out Northern Ireland, invent “Cool Britannia”, make friends with Colonel Gaddafi (?), introduce the minimum wage and execute an illegal (?) war, while still finding time to get his wife pregnant and appear in The Simpsons.

The IIPBA has identified the key themes for our 52nd Prime Minister:

1. Leadership is all about “balls”: No not that one (although there is a fantastic moment on page 485 when Tony deliberately provokes Ed into a fury: “after all, I was prime minister”. Fantastic stuff). Rupert Murdoch has “balls”. Alastair Campbell has “clanking great balls”. The IIPBA would like to see more evidence of Dave’s balls. Remember that time when Tony rescued someone from drowning? Maybe Steve Hilton (see Thinking Paper #15) could engineer photos of Dave wrestling a tiger or performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on a Garden Girl? Something like that.

2. Don’t neglect the smallest room: “I am very typically British”, Tony tells us. “I like to have time and comfort in the loo. The bathroom is an important room, and I couldn’t live in a culture that doesn’t respect it. Anyway, that is probably more than you ever wanted to know”. The IIPBA agrees with that final statement. It hopes David Cameron ate plenty of salad with his burgers and sausage at the recent Obama-cue.

3. When you’ve stopped being Prime Minister you can say whatever the hell you want: Tony describes failingsecondary schools as “basket cases”, the Scottish media as “a PhD dissertation about chippiness”, and his former Chancellor as “a strange guy” (p.616). Whilst the IIPBA awaits Dave’s memoirs with something very nearly bordering on mild curiosity, it is its considered view that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should any Prime Minister record his or her sex life for posterity (p.65 of A Journey). Dave, no one wants to read about the conception of Florence Rose Endellion. Thank you.


A Journey proves that Tony is awesome but it is very much a reflection, not a guide to being a Prime Minister. IIPBA would not advocate policy-making based on its tenets because that would Britain like Niyazov-era Turkmenistan and the Daily Mail has enough to deal with, what with the European Union and all. The IIPBA worries about how much fake tan there is in politics these days.

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