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Useful Notes / Tony Blair

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Another jackass in a hailstorm.

"He was the future, once..."
David Cameron on Blair during their first exchange in Prime Ministerial Questions

Sir Anthony Charles Lynton "Tony" Blair KG (born May 6, 1953) is a British politician who served as the 51st Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007. Perhaps unusually, Blair wasn't from the South but in fact started out in Scotland (he was born in Edinburghnote ) and was educated in the English North and Scotland. He became the Labour Party MP for Sedgefield in 1983 and party leader in 1994. In 1997, he steamrollered John Major's Conservatives and won Labour's first election victory in 18 years in a landslide, winning 418 out of 659 seats, the most seats won by one party in any election since the Second World War. He was first appointed as prime minister four days before his 44th birthday, becoming at the time the youngest PM since Lord Liverpool, who was appointed the day after his 42nd birthday in 1812. Blair was also the first PM born after WWII and during Elizabeth II's reign.

Despite criticism (most notably for shifting the Labour Party massively to the right and for invading Iraq), he captained Labour through three consecutive victories, passing Harold Wilson for cumulative tenure of a PM from that party late in his second mandate, and left by his choice in 2007 after seeing off four opposition leaders before handing over to the Chancellor. It goes without saying the switch from Captain Charisma to No-Flash Gordon has fueled several jokes. Blair currently acts as an international development consultant and, to significantly greater consternation, a UN peace envoy to the Middle East. His premiership also saw a military intervention which ended the Sierra Leone Civil War — and, to this day, Sierra Leone is just about the only country with an unequivocally positive view of him. (Kosovo is the other, due to his staunch support for the 1999 NATO intervention.)

His enduring legacy is that he (and Mandy) reinvented the traditionally blue-collar Labour Party into "New Labour", with middle-class cubicle monkeys as his base. Purists criticized him for this, but Blair was largely a product of his time. His soothing TV manner and propensity to dodge hard issues made him more reminiscent of an American president than PM — a trend that continued with David Cameron, and made life quite difficult for Gordon Brown and Theresa May, who tried to behave more traditionally.

Not afraid of media, Blair played himself in The Simpsons and a sketch with Catherine Tate. Likely the only prime minister to have said "Am I bovvered?"

In British media he tends to get portrayed either as a lapdog of contemporary US President George W. Bush, as the Straight Man to Bush, or as an insincere spin master. He had a habit, especially towards the end of his tenure, of pausing ... at the end of every sentence as if trying to make it easier, to cut out sound bites. The apex/nadir of his talking in slogans surely came in Northern Ireland, where he said "This is not the time for soundbites, but I feel the hand of history on my shoulder." It got so pronounced that Have I Got News for You once played a minute-long speech by Tony, then played it again with "the extraneous material" removed, which is to say they played 25 seconds of silence.

Early in his premiership, Blair was noted for the election catchphrases "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" and "we have three priorities: education, education and education". These were widely parodied, Mad Libs-style, in the media and to some extent have entered the British lexicon. True to his word, Blair's government criminalised more than 3,000 (not a typo) acts, one for almost every day New Labour was in power; most curious was criminalising "causing a nuclear explosion", as it is remarkably tricky to do this without committing at least one other crime.

"Teflon Tony" was also noted for his controversy-proof image, with scandals affecting his government seeming not to dent his own popularity. This made it all the bigger a contrast when the Iraq War became the one issue he could never escape. In retrospect, some feel that Blair got lucky in facing a succession of terrible Conservative leaders after becoming prime minister,note  and that a more capable opposition leader would have held his feet to the fire over Iraq much more effectively. Blair's reputation has diminished still further with the Chilcot Report (which found that Blair lied to Parliament and to the British people regarding the information about Iraqi WMDs; Blair denies this), for which even subsequent Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned him. The Iraq War's fallout turned Blair into a British version of US President Lyndon Johnson — a progressive leader whose domestic accomplishments were overshadowed by an unpopular war. Blair's staunch pro-Europeanismnote  is widely seen as detrimental because it encouraged the conditions that led to the "Leave" result in the 2016 referendum on continued UK membership of the European Union.note  Blair, for his part, strongly supported the "Remain" campaign during the referendum and spent most of his time in the public eye thereafter advocating for a reversal of the result, becoming one of the earliest prominent figures to back what eventually became the movement for a second referendum on the subject. However, once the Conservatives decisively won the 2019 general election with a program titled Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain's Potential, ending all prospects of a second referendum, and officially achieved Britain's withdrawal on 31 January 2020, he was among the first pro-Remain politicians to urge his fellows to accept defeat and move on.

At the height of his popularity, he ended at #67 in One Hundred Greatest Britons. He is still living, though given both the Tories and a large chunk of Labour hate his guts, he's unlikely to be elevated to the Lords anytime soon.note  Shortly after retiring he actively sought to become the inaugural president of the European Council — a position created by the Treaty of Lisbon — with the active support of his successor PM Brown, but other European leaders instead chose Herman van Rompuy, a former prime minister of Belgium. There were also persistent rumours that he, on behalf of Britain, might have been "rewarded" with a high-ranking position in the European Union had Britain voted to remain in the referendum, which of course is now impossible. With Conservative PM Boris Johnson's electoral victory in 2019, he has the distinction of being the only Labour leader to win a general election in the span of a half-century, between Harold Wilson in 1974 and at least the next general election in 2024.

His name "Tony Blair, PM" is also, amazingly enough, an anagram for "I'm Tory Plan B".

Tony Blair in Fiction

  • He voices himself in The Simpsons episode "The Regina Monologues," where the titular family travels to London. Although after he leaves:
    Homer: I can't believe we met Mr. Bean!
  • He acted in a sketch for Comic Relief with Catherine Tate.
  • He had a brief appearance in Spooks, where footage of him and George W. Bush was used in the context of the Prime Minister meeting the US President.
  • The unnamed prime minister whose corpse is found in a cupboard in the Doctor Who episode "Aliens of London", having been murdered by aliens, is meant to be Tony Blair.note  The main villain of Series 3, The Master, using the alias of Harold Saxon, is thought to be a caricature of Tony Blair, being elected as Prime Minister, having a trademark smile like that of Blair, and then turning out to be utterly monstrous.
  • The Doctor Who Past Doctors Adventures book "Millennium Shock" has a slimy Prime Minister Terry Brooks who comes to power by making promises he can't keep and tries making an alliance with aliens as part of an elaborate plan to do so.
  • Tony Blair is also made fun of as the predecessor of the fictional Prime Minister in Love Actually. Which resulted in Blair explaining to certain people that doing something like what the PM did in the movie would be a really bad idea.
  • Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher come in for some ribbing in Coupling.
    Patrick: You know what? We need Maggie back!
  • The Prime Minister in the 2008 Dan Dare miniseries is clearly based on him (confirmed by Word of God). He's a snivelling opportunist who sells Earth out to the Mekon, so it's not a favourable comparison. Private Eye ran a Dan Dare parody in The '80s where the Mekon represented Margaret Thatcher ("The Maggon") and Tony Blair was often accused of selling out Labour's principles to Thatcherism.
    • Cartoons in The Times in the late 1990s flipped the sides, portraying Tony Blair as "Dan Blair, Pilot for the Foreseeable Future" and William Hague, the (bald) Leader of the Opposition, as the Mekon.
  • Gary Callahan "The Smiler", the second president in the sixty-issue Transmetropolitan (not a bad run, considering that Warren Ellis' other works devote a meagre two punchlines to Thatcher), is believed to have been largely based on Tony Blair. Trademarks include a near-permanent grin and an obsession with control and media spin. The main characters quickly come to consider him worse than the previous president, who was based on Richard Nixon.
  • Played by Michael Sheen in 2006's The Queen, who previously played him in 2003's The Deal (2003) and again in 2010's The Special Relationship. Screenwriter Peter Morgan seems to have a strong interest in what Blair is like behind closed doors.
    • Blair did not appear in the original West End staging of The Audience, written by Morgan, perhaps out of fear that his scenes with the Queen would be too derivative of ... well, The Queen, but he was added (and James Callaghan dropped) when the show moved to Broadway. He stayed on for the show's West End revival, so it looks like he's here to stay.
  • Blair was one of Jon Culshaw's most popular impersonations in Dead Ringers: in another Comic Relief sketch, the real Blair appeared alongside Culshaw's version and played along, notably accepting Culshaw's use of his catchphrase " a very real sense..."
  • Private Eye started out with two Blair parodies: Blairzone, referencing his "Cool Britannia" attempts to be hip and with it, and "The Vicar of St. Albion's", referencing how some had compared his speech-giving style to that of a sanctimonious parish vicar preaching a sermon. Perhaps unexpectedly, it was the second one that lasted and became very popular, with Cabinet members fulfilling corresponding roles (for instance, Gordon Brown as the church treasurer) and foreign leaders being slotted into appropriate roles (e.g., contemporaneous American Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were made into the leaders of odd evangelical sects the Church of the Seventh-Day Fornicators and the Church of the Latter Day Morons—or Morbombs during the Iraq War—respectively). "The Vicar of St. Albion's" got weird when Blair very publicly converted to Catholicism shortly after resigning as prime minister (especially since Blair kept his religion private while in office to avoid further mockery for being the Vicar of St. Albion's). Private Eye adapted pretty well: he now appears occasionally as the Rev. Imam Rabbi Sri Tony Blair, Chief Executive of super-ecumenical organization Drawing All Faiths Together.
  • The Pet Shop Boys Affectionate Parody of George W. Bush and Tony Blair — "I'm with Stupid" — reached number eight as a single on the UK charts. They also wrote "I Get Along" about his second firing of Peter Mandelson (so they said). They also made the extremely creepy "Integral" about New Labour's progressive expansion of a surveillance society; the fandom sometimes count these three together as the Pet Shop Boys' "Blair Trilogy".
  • Former Prime Minster Adam Lang in The Ghost Writer is clearly a fictionalized version of Blair, including subtle jabs at his tic-like grinning.
  • Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has the character Tony (played by Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell) whom Gilliam describes as a parody of Tony Blair because of what he calls Blair's ability to say incredible and ridiculous things.
  • Played by Robert Lindsay (better known for his role in My Family) in two ITV satires, A Very Social Secretary (about Blair's Home secretary David Blunkett) and The Trial of Tony Blair (where Blair is charged with war crimes for sending Britain into Iraq).
  • He is a recurring character in the BBC Radio 4 comedy series 15 Minute Musical.
  • The Comic Strip Presents episode "The Hunt for Tony Blair" frames the main events and controversies of Blair's premiership — Iraq, Afghanistan, the shift from blue-collar, working-class, socialist "Old Labour" to middle-class Tory-lite "New Labour", the leadership feud with Gordon Brown, etc. — as a 1950s Ealing Studios-style Film Noir about Blair being on the run after being falsely (or not-so-falsely) accused of several murders.
  • Blair appears in Official Secrets by way of Stock Footage from 2003 TV news.
  • Shaun Micallef has impersonated him as a well-meaning but visibly unhinged diplomat.
  • Played by Bertie Carvel in the fifth season of The Crown, breezing into power on a wave of promised change after eighteen years of Conservative rule.
  • Depicted in the Harry Potter AU fanfic Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue. Since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is set early in Blair's first term, he is quick to get involved when he learns about Voldemort's coup, to the point of ordering a successful military assault on Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and the Ministry of Magic, turning the tide of the war as early as September 1997.