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Tony Blair LeadershipTony Blair Leadership


Tony Blair (1953-)


British prime minister, best known for New Labour (a low tax, pro-business version of the old Labour Party) and the invasion of Iraq.

Blair (pictured right) married Cherie, a barrister and judge.


How can he be described as a leader?


1. Principled but dogmatic

His belief in God gave him an unshakeable belief in his own moral rightness.

“Do the right thing, according to your conscience”, he says.Tony Blair

But sometimes he didn’t have the humility to take into account the views of his opponents and ordinary people (e.g. over the Iraq War)

He was isolated from public opinion by an army of advisers (or spin doctors), led by his long time press secretary, Alastair Campbell (pictured right).


2. Ambitioustony blair leadership

His great ambition to be prime minister was spurred on by:

  • his wife, Cherie (pictured right).
  • the influence of his mother, who died when he was 21, and his father, a self-made man from a poor background in Glasgow.

He believes that the two enemies of success are

  • complacency.
  • failure to change.


3. Tough (but could have been tougher)

He can be :

  • able to say no (which he thinks is particularly important to good leadership). Tony Blair Leadership 
  • decisive and courageous enough to make difficult decisions (firing people like Mo Mowlam, a Cabinet minister, and his friend, Peter Mandelson, pictured right). 

He also coped well with the pressures of his job, having little time for family, reflection and relaxation. 

His weakness (according to his biographer Anthony Seldon) was that he wasn’t tough enough to stand up to strong personalities like:

  • Gordon Brown,  his Chancellor of the Exchequer (pictured right).


Brown claims that in 1994 Blair promised that he wouldn’t serve as prime minister for more than ten years .

This meant that Brown was perpetually aggressive and Blair gave him too much power.


4. Too trustingtony blair leadership

He likes to think the best of everyone, even when they don’t deserve it.

This may have led him to misjudge George W. Bush (pictured together right in 2003)  and overlook his real reasons for invading Iraq (like revenge).


5. Great communicator and persuader

He’s a great public speaker and TV performer. He talks with charm and compassion (or the sliminess of a rattlesnake according to his critics). Tony Blair Leadership

In the 1997 general election campaign, he brilliantly communicated his vision of a fairer, more enterprising Britain.

His greatest diplomatic achievements were

  • persuading the world to address climate change and Third World famine. 
  • peace in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. 

He was the first British prime minister to talk directly with the Catholic terrorist group, the IRA.


Tony Blair Leadership

6. Mistrusted

Nicknamed ‘Bliar’, many people thought he lied over the cause of the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein’s (pictured right) weapons of mass destruction.

The Butler inquiry in 2004 concluded the intelligence services told Blair there were such weapons but the evidence was very weak.


Tony Blair Leadership

7. Autocratic

Like his favourite politician, Margaret Thatcher (pictured right), he liked telling people what to do and how to do it (like reforming schools and the NHS, Britain’s state owned health service). 

He was not so good at:

  • listening to what other people wanted 
  • winning the biggest possible support for his policies (particularly from the people who had to carry them out like the teachers and doctors). 

He didn't like debate in Parliament, or consulting with his Cabinet.


 Tony Blair Leadership

8. Calm in a crisis

His calm dignity and eloquence effectively dealt with many crises including

  • the death of Princess Diana (pictured right)

  • the 7/7 London bombings in 2005.



Key quotes on success and ethics

My life’s purpose is about idealism.

I don’t think that you should ever bend on basic fundamental beliefs and convictions.


Key quotes on leadership

The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes

We are the servants of the people.

What makes you a progressive? I would say: belief in social justice.

I can only go one way. I’ve not got a reverse gear.


Key quote on education

“Ask me my three main priorities for government, and I tell you: education, education, education”.


Key quote on Gordon Brown

“Gordon [Brown] is the only friend I have ever lost”.


Key quotes on war and terrorism

“I will answer to my Maker for the people who died” (about Iraq).

“Our ultimate weapon is not our guns, but our beliefs” (on the fight against terrorism).


Key quote on Africa

“The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world”

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