“Tony Wants”: The First Blair Premiership in Historical Perspective

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Th is was the Colin Matthew Memorial Lecture for the understanding of history. 

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Blair’s First Term

Professor Peter Hennessy

May I begin this evening with a few words about Professor Colin Matthew. I did not know Colin well ~ but I knew him well enough to appreciate how important he was to my profession. He had a capacity to inspire and to organise both on the page, within his university and through such learned bodies as the Royal Historical Society which was very special indeed. His judgement allied to his energy and generosity of spirit meant that Colin could ~ and did ~ make good things happen like few others. It is a great honour to be speaking in his memory this evening.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a lecture in two parts. Part one is written as if today was the10th September 2001. It will be the sort of presentation I would have given if Black Tuesday had not happened and the political press was still reflecting the running argument between sections of the Labour movement and the government about the precise mix of the still churning New Labour version of a mixed economy. No doubt the papers, too, would have been full of the latest twists and turns of the Tony/Gordon story ~ a political rivalry unmatched perhaps since the Gladstone/Disraeli era, (the period which Colin Matthew covered so wonderfully), the difference being that TB and GB are members of the same Cabinet. We would be intrigued, too, by the new configuration of the ever more tightly fused No.10 and Cabinet Office ~ the latest geographical expression of the Blair Centre. We would be boring each other rigid as well by pondering the latest odds on a successful outcome of the drive for better public services by the time of the general election of 2005 or 2006 ~ the theme of the second term being that of delivery.

All of this I shall undertake in a moment as section one. Part two of my paper this evening will reprise the Prime Minister’s style during Gulf War II, the four days of concentrated military action against Iraq in December 1998, and the considerably larger, 2 ½ month Balkan War in the spring of 1999 before making an early stab at describing the handling of the post-11 September emergency, the so-called ‘War on International Terrorism.’

The weeks before and after the general election of June 2001 were quite revealing of the way Tony Blair himself saw his first term and its ~ or to be more precise, other people’s ~ shortcomings. At the last Cabinet meeting before the contest, he warned his ministers not to expect an easy time when they returned [1] Despite the 167-seat margin of victory over all other parties and the prospect of a full-length, unprecedented second term for a Government carrying a ‘Labour’ label, Mr Blair did not return to No.10 with any overt signs that, in Disraeli’s phrase in Tancred, ‘[a] majority is always the best repartee.’ [2] Quite the reverse.

Jim Naughtie caught this very well in his new study of Blair and Brown, The Rivals, which he subtitles ~ a trifle fruitily ~ as ‘The Intimate Story of A Political Marriage.’ ‘Euphoria,’ he writes,

                        ‘had been banned at the moment of victory. Any repeat of

                         the 1997 frolics at the Royal Festival Hall risked looking

                         arrogant, they had decided, so there was meant  to be no

                         public rave. Behind the controlled façade, however, the

                         feeling that was struggling to find a way out was not one

                         of wild celebration. It was a deep frustration. Blair was

                         impatient with his Cabinet and with Whitehall, and Brown

                         was impatient with Blair.


                        ‘In Number 10, all the anxiety about “delivery” in the public

                         services and about the need to confront the public cynicism

                         revealed in the General Election turnout (the first to dip under

                         60 per cent since the arrival of universal suffrage) was focused

                         once again on the central partnership.’ [3]


In fact, it had been rather a scratchy year for the Prime Minister. One of Tony Blair’s more endearing characteristics is his willingness to talk publicly about the human side of his job ~ a capacity to acknowledge anxiety which is quite rare amongst top politicians who often fail to distinguish it from being an admission of weakness. For example, in the spring of 2000, the Prime Minister told Robert Harris he agreed that most political lives ended in failure. Why? ‘It’s because the public is always encouraged to be cynical about people. And…in the end…whatever the expectations are, you can’t meet all of them.’ [4] Whatever else might be said of him, Tony Blair is a command and control premier with a sense of political mortality.

Within four months of his conversation with Harris reaching the bookstands, that sense, I suspect, became his most dominant emotion for a few, fraught days in September 2001 when a curious, unanticipated coalition of the semi-organised effectively closed down much of the UK’s oil and petrol distribution system. [5] From the moment the Prime Minister was warned by the contingency planners in the Cabinet Office early on the morning of 12 September that ‘the situation is near breaking point’ and that ‘MOD [is] looking at options for military assistance,’ [6] an autumn of fretfulness began to afflict the Government and, for a few days, none of those around the Prime Minister ‘knew what the petrol scare meant. Is it the end? Have we lost? This went on for three or four days,’ as one of them recalled. [7]

  The normally phlegmatic Home Secretary, Jack Straw, declared at a meeting of the Civil Contingencies Committee in the Cabinet Office at the height of the crisis: ‘This is our poll tax.’ [8] Over the coming days the opinion surveys suggested Straw may have not entirely succumbed to anxious overreaction giving the Conservatives a lead over  Labour  for  the  first time since the ‘Black Wednesday’ crisis eight years earlier. [9] ‘The focus groups failed’ was the blunt conclusion of a highly intelligent Labour movement veteran. [10] In fact, this was not quite the case. Philip Gould had been briefing Blair on rising anger about the price of fuel since the beginning of the year. [11] The problem flowed partly because Whitehall’s capacity for contingency planning had been dispersed beyond the Cabinet Office and into several departments and allowed to lose its sharpness. Sir Richard Wilson and Sir David Omand swiftly set about reviewing this in the wake of ‘petrol September,’ [12] only for its shortcomings to be shown up in a still more acute and protracted fashion when the foot and mouth crisis began to bite in late February 2001. [13]

   Briefly, it looked as if the events of September 2000 had fuelled a mini-revival of collective government. ‘There is more challenge to the PM,’ an insider explained. ‘They realise that they are not going to win an election just on his face.’ [14] This impression of mildly waxing collegiality was reinforced by two other factors. As the preoccupation with winning a second term grew (not that it had been absent for one moment since 2 May 1997 hence the relentlessness of the permanent election campaign over the subsequent four years which had, I believe, much to do with the 59 per cent turnout when the real election campaign ended on 7 June 2001), there appeared to be a little more space at the centre in which the career civil servants could operate. This included the Prime Minister’s Department-that-will-not-speak-its-name as the regulars in the Private Office began to take over more of the day-to-day running of business from the special advisers. [15]

   In addition, close observers of the Cabinet Office noticed a burst of Cabinet committee activity. The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, had always liked operating through them and the autumn of 2001 found him particularly active in the chair of MISC 10, the Ministerial Committee on the Millennium Dome. [16] Sir Richard Wilson, too, was at his collegiate subtlest in encouraging that mini-revival of Cabinet committeedom and bringing together clusters of informal groups into a proper Cabinet committee shape. MISC 9 on children’s and young persons’ services was an example. [17] He was also skilled at offering the Cabinet Secretariat as minute-takers even if a particular ministerial group did not feature formally in his Cabinet Committee Book. [18]

   This phenomenon of the late first term should not be exaggerated, however. In October 2000, a Cabinet minister said greater collegiality was not apparent on Thursday mornings ~ the full Cabinet could neither tackle difficult issues on which there might be disagreement  nor go on much beyond an hour for fear of the press reporting splits. [19]

   Such a self-defeating preoccupation with the media’s obsession for personality and clash stories, in the view of another Cabinet minister, is what, in the longer-term perspective of the first time as a whole, had stymied what might have been a natural growth in collegiality as ministers became more experienced:

                        ‘Well all went in [in May 1997] nervous. There was a high degree

                          of ignorance. There was a degree of silence round that table. Then

                          we got a bit more verbal and things began to improve. Then we got

                          into trouble with the press and Tony took more control.’ [20]

In the last months of the first term, just before the outbreak of foot and mouth, a very senior Whitehall figure thought that over the past 3 ¾ years a more profound factor had been at work virtually trumping all else: ‘It’s not the fear of the press going on about splits that stops the Cabinet from discussing things, it’s because the PM  doesn’t like argument. Cabinet these days is just a series of self-congratulatory remarks.’ [21]

   When Jim Callaghan had been to see Blair in the early months of his premiership, he had added a rider to his arguments about the importance of collegiality. He told Blair to find about six really good ministers on whom he could rely, [22] which is rather different from advancing the idea of an ‘inner cabinet’ in which  Callaghan never believed. It was a version of a collective apex nonetheless. As the 2001 election approached, despite ‘petrol September’ and the stresses caused by foot and mouth searing large tracts of the rural kingdom, Blair would have none of the Callaghan or David Simon notion of an inner group. And he was publicly unrepentant about this telling Anne Applebaum in March 2001:

                        ‘People sometimes say, well, Cabinet sessions don’t last for hours

                         and days, but that’s just a function of modern government. It’s also

                         that you do more through Cabinet committees and through informal

                         groups of people.

                        ‘I remember Roy Jenkins telling me about the 1960s Labour Cabinets,

                         when they would have Cabinet for two days. Can you imagine trying

                         to conduct business today like that? The Government would go into


                        ‘I think a lot of the things that I’ve done ~ a strong centre, making

                         sure that the writ of the Prime Minister runs throughout ~ I think

                         that’s just an inevitable part of modern government. I don’t apologise

                         for it at all. The crony stuff is just a piece of abuse dressed up as

                         political argument.’ [23]

‘…[M]aking sure that the writ of the Prime Minister runs throughout;’ the aspiration was plain enough. But this was not happening in the spring of 2001 and had not at any stage since May 1997 because of the twin peak of the Blair administration, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, a great crag standing in the way of a thoroughly monocratic  government.

  The  ‘King Tony’  phenomenon, as I have heard a very senior Whitehall figure put it, [24]has to be seen more in the context of a dual monarchy, the rivalry and sustained malice of whose courts inspired one of the most racy and readable political books of recent years, Andrew Rawnsley’s Servants of the People [25] as well as Jim Naughtie’s more recent study.  For throughout its first term, the Blair Administration was ‘a bi-polar government,’ in the words of another Whitehall veteran,[26] to a degree not experienced in modern times.

   In fact, the degree to which Whitehall was shot-through by the influences of the Blair-Brown axis led me, as the first premiership deepened, to abandon the concentric-circle model I had used in the past for a different geographical expression. Because probably the best way to depict the Blair and Brown domains up to the 2001 election was to map the policy fiefdoms where an individual dominance could be discerned, though a caveat is needed here. Such dominance was nowhere absolute. As Peter Riddell has expressed it, there is a case for a trilateral model as the Treasury has usually been involved as a central player in the most important No.10 initiatives. [27] Perhaps special interests would be a better way of describing the particular policy concerns of No.10 and No.11.

   For the Prime Minister they were these:





                                                                        Northern Ireland

                                                                        Foreign and Defence

                                                                        Intelligence (an activity of intense

Concern at the moment for obvious



The Cabinet Office, once meant to be a collective resource shared by the Cabinet as a whole, was in a feudal relationship with the overlord next door; a case of ever closer fusion.

   For Brown, the policy cartography looked like this:



Child and youth policy

Welfare to work


Science and technology transfer

Structural change and regional


Here Treasury policy pervaded and, through the comprehensive spending reviews and the public service agreements which underpin them, the Chancellor exerted a sway no predecessor in the Treasury has ever matched over his colleagues and he ‘stuffs their mouths with gold if they do things that are on his agenda,’ as an admiring insider put it. [28] Social security, by the end of the first term, was virtually a Brown satrapy.

   All this was (and remains) a constitutional issue insofar as it subverts what is supposed to be a government of departments which adheres to collective responsibility in return for a shared say in serious decision-taking. For a combination of commanding premier and overmighty Chancellor leaves a residue of considerable resentment on the part of the dominated ones about the degree to which the ‘Tony wants’ and ‘Gordon requires’ phenomena which drive policy and suppress collegiality across Whitehall.

   One needs to construct an RI (or Resentment Index) for the first Blair administration. And here the Chancellor outstripped the man who won the leadership crown after the death of John Smith. As one minister put it privately:

                        ‘The PM’s bilaterals are a very important aspect of the Blair

                          Government. It’s his way of keeping the pressure on Cabinet

                          Ministers tend not to like them; nor do their permanent

                          secretaries. But they are taken seriously.

                        ‘They involve a much easier relationship, however, than Cabinet

                          ministers dealings with Gordon Brown. There is much more ‘do

                          as you’re told.’ It’s much more a paper relationship. The Chancellor

                          is a paper man ~ solitary. It’s as if he sits there in his own room

                          poring over his papers with a cold towel round his head. Cabinet

                          ministers, when they get no further with Gordon Brown, try to

                          line-up with No.10 against the Treasury.’ [29]

   This remained a tension raiser between No.10 and No.11 Downing Street. And so was, and is, the euro, a question the PM and the Chancellor are both profoundly interested in and over the nuances of which they both wish to prevail. And here one detected the Mandelson factor at its most destabilising before his second exit from the Cabinet in January 2001.[30] It wasn’t just the Chancellor’s people who knew about the daily early morning phone call from the Prime Minister to his Northern Ireland Secretary when in Belfast which ranged across issues far wider than the great unresolvable of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They noticed, too, how often Mr Blair invites Mr Mandelson into his office for a chat after Cabinet meetings. [31]

   The Prime Minister’s people blame the Chancellor for some, though not all, of the absence of procedural collegiality in the Blair government. ‘Tony is not a particularly command-and-control person,’ it has been put to me.


                        ‘He is bugger all interested in the detail. That’s Brown. Tony

                          has a great sense of the big picture. But he knows how to take

                          a barrister’s brief and he does have a strong sense of what the

                         Government is about. Gordon hates collective discussion.

                         As a result, they tend to have to be bilaterals, not just, with

                         Gordon Brown but with other ministers too.’ [32]

I’m not sure that Blair is a natural collective Cabinet government man distracted from this approach by a rival imperium in the Treasury. Though it is true that ‘Tony will not take Gordon on,’ as a neutral observer in neither camp put it. [33]

   It’s partly that Blair is not a systems man. I have heard it said that since his Kosovo-related experiences during the Balkans war of 1999, ‘the only system and institution the PM empathises with is the Armed Forces.’ [34] Hence the influence (until his retirement this year) of the Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Charles Guthrie, generally and in particular when he strode across Whitehall in the summer of 2000 to persuade the Prime Minister to see-off the Treasury’s demands to trim back the defence budget to a point where, in Guthrie’s view, it would renege on the deal struck during the Strategic Defence Review of 1997-98 on which he, Guthrie, had expended much personal capital in selling it to the Armed Forces. [35]

   The consequences of Blair’s lack of feel for what Clem Attlee called the ‘architectonics’ of state, have been captured by two of the businessmen brought in to help him in 1997. Chris Haskins, who headed the Regulatory Impact Unit in the Cabinet Office, said in the early autumn of 2000 that the Government was ‘in the worst of all worlds now where we’ve sort of abandoned the Cabinet committee. We’ve got a sort of Prime Minister’s Office, including the Cabinet Office, which really hasn’t got the teeth to deliver what the Prime Minister wants. And I’m not too sure that it’s the institution that should be delivering.’ [36]  David Simon who advised Mr Blair on his modernising government agenda and attempting to reconcile the real-time policy-making practices of the Government with the need to lay an audit trail of properly minuted decisions taken in what remains of a collective system, was even more candid when writing earlier in 2000, as a member of the Treasury’s Public Services Productivity Panel. ‘The process,’ he said,

                        ‘by which Cabinet Government develops effective policy and the

                         civil service and executive agencies work to achieve improving

                         results is both complex and currently inadequately co-ordinated

                         and reviewed.’ [37]

Lord Simon said more consistent leadership and focus was needed from ministers. There were ‘too many’ objectives ‘and they change often.’ [38]

   This has certainly been a problem for Mr Blair and the importees ~ the penumbra of special advisers ~ around him in No.10. As Chris Haskins explained: ‘He is a lawyer ~ you have to start with that ~ so he never actually ran anything before he became Prime Minister. I think he’s learnt reasonably quickly that running government is pretty complicated.’ [39] And, as David Simon indicated, ministers need to realise that ‘culture change is a marathon not a sprint.’ [40] One close observer of Blair’s inner circle underscored the Haskins/Simon analysis. ‘The PM,’ he said,

                        ‘has never run a department. That shows through and in the people

                         around him. They have no real sense of how departments think things

                         through and the brokerages they have to operate and implement. He

                         and the Policy Unit always want instant action.’ [41]

And it is not always plain to senior figures out in the department that when Tony’s people say ‘Tony wants’ whether Tony really does want it rather than his Policy Unit people wishing it to be so. [42]

   The Blair style had aroused some intriguing resistances by the time the first term approached its end. The Commons Select Committee on Public Administration, building on the anxieties about the spread and roles of special advisers by the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life, [43] followed Neill in urging the Government to draw up a separate ‘Code of Conduct for Special Advisers’ and that Parliament should control the overall number of special advisers an administration can appoint by voting a special sum for this purpose that cannot be exceeded. [44]

   The select committee, too, persisted with its inquiry into the Ministerial Code despite the Prime Minister’s disdainful remarks in the House of Commons during the summer of 2000 to the effect that ‘no one will be better governed through fine-tuning the Ministerial Code. Those are good issues for academics and constitutional experts, but they are not the big issues that Parliament should debate when we consider our role in the modern society…’ [45]In its February 2001 report, The Ministerial Code: Improving the Rule Book, the select committee recognised the increasing centrality of QPM and its successor to the country’s constitutional arrangements since John Major first published it in 1992 and the centrality of the Prime Minister to its proper application:

                        ‘We believe that the development of codes of conduct across

                          public life reinforces the need for the constitutional status of

                          the Ministerial Code to be properly recognised. It is not a legal

                          document but a set of guidelines. It does not necessarily cover

                          all aspects of what should be considered acceptable Ministerial

                          practice or behaviour and should not substitute for the Prime

                          Minister’s judgement, for which he must account to Parliament.

                          It is unsatisfactory for its status still to be in doubt. It is the

                          rulebook  for ministerial conduct, including the responsibilities

                          of Ministers to Parliament, and its status should reflect its

                          importance. It may have developed in a private and ad hoc way,

                          but it is now an integral part of the new constitutional architecture.

                          It is time for it to be recognised as such.’ [46]

 No acceptance here of the Blair line that such affairs should be the concern of my seminar room rather than the chamber of the House of Commons.

   For good measure, the Public Administration Committee reminded Mr Blair directly of what they regarded as a first order prime ministerial concern:

                        ‘The Code is the Prime Minister’s document; and it is with the

                          Prime Minister that the buck must finally stop. This closes the

                          accountability gap…’ [47]

In personal terms, such a closing of the gap did not appeal to Tony Blair. Twice he refused to give evidence to the PAC on the code of which he was custodian-in-chief. The select committee appended the exchanges to its report. [48]

 On 10 May 2000, Dr Tony Wright, the Committee’s Chairman, wrote to the Prime Minister, noting

                        ‘your own contribution to the development of the Code, and in

                          particular, your declaration in the foreword to the current

                          edition in which you say “openness is a vital ingredient of

                          good accountable Government…I believe we should be

                          absolutely clear about how Ministers should account, and be

                          held to account, by Parliament and the public.” It is in this

                          spirit that the Select Committee invites you to give evidence

                          to us. As the Code is the Prime Minister’s document, you will

                          understand that your evidence is indispensable to the Committee’s

                          inquiry.’ [49]

Blair’s dismissal of this request was curt: ‘As you know, evidence to Select Committees is normally provided by “line” departments or via a Government memorandum. Prime Ministers have not themselves, by long-standing convention, given evidence to Select Committees. That remains the position.’ [50]

‘…[B]y long-standing convention.’ The Cabinet Office primed No.10 on how to fend off Wright’s assertion of all-party select committee power. They rested on the argument that since premiers ceased to be Leader of the House of Commons during the Second World War select committees lost the power to summon them. The last premier to appear, Neville Chamberlain, had gone as Leader of the House not Prime Minister. This was the defence 70, Whitehall provided for the Prime Minister’s Office. [51] It ignored completely the changed  world of select committeedom since 1979 and that it was Mrs Thatcher who simply invented the convention under the post-1979 dispensation that premiers do not attend as she wished to avoid giving evidence to the Defence Select Committee on the Westland Affair in 1986, sending her Cabinet Secretary, Sir Robert Armstrong, instead. [52]

Tony Wright persisted. On 8 June 2000, he told Blair: ‘There is no-one apart from the Prime Minister who can account to Parliament for it. You will understand that there is an important issue here in relation to Parliament and the Executive. This was put to the Committee forcibly by Professor Peter Hennessy in his evidence on 24 May…Referring to the convention of the Prime Minister not appearing before the Committee to discuss the Code he said “I think…the greatest single gap in the Select Committee’s reach now is that of the Prime Minister. We have long passed the point when Prime Ministers can shelter under the convention that they do not appear.”’ [53] Blair was unmoved: ‘I have looked at this again, but I am afraid I can see no case from departing from the long-standing convention that Prime Ministers do not themselves give evidence to Select Committees, a position always adhered to by previous administrations.’ [54]

The House of Commons Liaison Committee ( the ‘shop stewards’ group consisting of all select committee chairs ) took up the cause at the end of the year. Writing to Blair on 14 December 2000, its chairman, Robert Sheldon, produced an ingenious suggestion:

                        ‘The Government has made it its practice to produce an Annual

                          Report. What the Committee has in mind is that this document

                          should be the basis of an annual appearance by the Prime Minister

                          to discuss with the Liaison Committee the main elements in

                          this Report…For its part the Committee would undertake that no

                          further requests for your appearance would be made by any Select

                          Committee that year, and that, so far as possible, you should be

                          Given an indication of the main themes to be covered.’ [55]

Blair’s reply was a collector’s item, coming as it did from the Prime Minister who has given less space to his individual ministerial colleagues than any other since 1945: 

‘It is right of course that the House of Commons should have an

 opportunity to question me as the Head of the Government, and

 it does of course have that opportunity in weekly Prime Minister’s

 Questions. More detailed questioning of the kind that you propose

 Would, however, inevitably mean trespassing on other minister’s

 Responsibilities and would, I believe, risk obscuring the present

 Lines of accountability in our system where statutory powers are

 Conferred directly on Secretaries of State and other Departmental

 Prime Ministers, and not on the Prime Minister.’ [56]

A third ‘no’ from No.10. Less than three months later, Blair was giving away en clair the true position to Anne Applebaum claiming credit for his creation of ‘a strong centre, making sure that the writ of the Prime Minister runs throughout.’ [57] ~ no reluctance here to ‘trespass’ on other minister’s patches. Tony Wright’s Public Administration Committee had not abandoned their scrutiny on this terrain either. In the last days of the 1997-2001 Parliament, their report on Making Government Work: The Emerging Issues, sensitive to the thinking taking place inside No.10 and the Cabinet Office about machinery of government in the second term, declared that: ‘Our preference is for a model which strengthens Cabinet government as a whole, rather than for one which supplants it with something else, although the case for a Prime Minister’s Department needs to be properly assessed.’ [58]

As the ink dried on Making Government Work, the first press stories about how a determined ‘Blair plots revenge on the Civil Service’ were appearing on the front pages of the quality press. [59] Neither top civil servants nor traditional departmental boundaries were to get in the way of delivery after 8 June 2001. What would this mean? A Prime Minister’s Department that really would speak its name? Unlikely. Sir Richard Wilson, a consistent opponent of such a notion, was thought to have won that argument in advance, if only because of the row such a development would cause in Parliament and among the commentating classes and, perhaps equally importantly, on the part of Gordon Brown who was, in private, quick to point out the threats to collective government if a development threatened his fiefdom. [60] It was plain, however, that the ‘centre’ would indeed be strengthened to try yet again to ensure Blair’s writ really did run throughout Whitehall.

Senior journalists at The Times got furthest in persuading the Prime Minister to think aloud about this ahead of the 2001 election. [61] During the conversation at Labour’s headquarters in Millbank Tower on 31 May 2001, the Prime Minister said:

                        ‘…I want to focus the centre of government on delivery particularly.

                          I will establish what will in effect be a…specific policy delivery

                          Unit in the Cabinet Office but the head of it will report directly to

                          To me and we will use that in order to make sure that across the

                          Public service areas, we’re driving through the change and reform

                          That is necessary. And, in particular, that we are refocusing the

                          Civil Service on what I think is their task today which is less to do

                          With detailed day-to-day policy advice and more to do with project

                          Management and delivery.’ [62]

Did this mean that Washington really would come to Whitehall ~ that politically appointed special advisers would dominate policy advice with senior officials more and more becoming managers and executors?

Shortly before Blair’s Times interview, one Whitehall veteran judged that ‘the public may not like the civil service very much but they like the idea of “Tony’s cronies” even less.’ He was sympathetic to the predicament in which Sir Richard Wilson had already found himself as a defender of Northcote-Trevelyan notions of a Civil Service inoculated against politicisation:

                        ‘This lot push out against boundaries all the time, though

                          sometimes they don’t realise they are. It’s about four times

                          as difficult for Richard as it was for Robin Butler. Richard

                          constantly treads the fine line between losing the Service,

                          losing the Government and losing the commentators.’ [63]

Should Mr Blair alter the basics of what one permanent secretary called ‘the arranged marriages between permanent secretaries and ministers’ [64] transgressing what another called ‘the thin golden line that must not be crossed,’ [65] his second term could be hugely constitutionally significant in a hotly disputed fashion.

Already by the end of the first term there were grave anxieties about the precedent created by Ed Balls promotion to the role of Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury as a special adviser ( though not without management responsibilities over career officials ). As one shrewd judge of Treasury form put it in early 2001: ‘Ed Balls is not just a minister, he’s a permanent secretary as well. The Chief Secretary [Andrew Smith] is just a personnel officer.’[66] Though the real Permanent Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, remained a hugely respected figure throughout Whitehall, this was undoubtedly true. Balls was commonly referred to as ‘the Deputy Chancellor.’ Should Blair go for an Americanisation of the Whitehall advice systems, he may find a considerable ~ and public ~ road block in a revitalised Civil Service Commission under Ushar Prashar, the First Commissioner. As one of her first acts, Lady Prashar appointed 12 new commissioners by open competition ( the first time this has ever happened ). They took up their posts in the spring of 2001 and were undoubtedly alert to the dangers of politicisation and determined to ensure that in the Civil Service Bill the Government seemed likely to bring forward in its second term that their Gladstone-devised independence and answerability to the Monarch alone would remain intact and embedded in the legislation. [67]

Mr Blair won his second term with an extraordinary 167-seat majority. He rejigged Whitehall instantly and substantially in boundary terms ( though without any attempt to mount a Haldane-style inquiry first ~ the indispensable precondition of a lasting settlement ). There was much remixing and retitling with new combinations such as the departments of Work and Pensions; Environment and Rural Affairs ( Social Security and Agriculture, Fisheries and Food disappearing into the bureaucratic waste basket of history ). DETR was completely dismembered with a strange mixture of Transport, Local Government and Regions as a rump. Education lost Employment to Work and Pensions and was renamed Education and Skills. The Home Office lost important and longstanding functions ~ elections, incongruously to Transport, Local Government and Regions; and human rights/freedom of information rather more logically to the Lord Chancellor’s Department.

The Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Office went into --- tighter yet even untidier fusion. No.10 was reconfigured under three commands:

                        1: Jonathan Powell and Jeremy Heywood would henceforth run

                            a merged Policy Unit and Private Office in the shape of a

                            government and policy division.


                        2: Alastair Campbell would oversee Communications and strategy

                            combined and remove himself from the Press Office where the

                            career officials, Godric Smith and Tom Kelly, would deal

                            day-to-day with the media.

                        3: Anji Hunter would lead ‘government relations’ liasing with the

                            devolved administrations, the Labour Party and business. [68]

The promised Policy Delivery Unit appeared in the Cabinet Office led by Gus Macdonald. Lord Macdonald’s boss in DETR days, John Prescott, moved into a new Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in Dover House to head up the clutch of ministers in the Cabinet Office. [69]

The Cabinet Office, already groaning with overlapping functions and units, acquired still more in a way which suggested Mr Prescott and Sir Richard Wilson would be stretched to co-ordinate it let alone the rest of Whitehall. In the run-up to the election, an especially thoughtful Cabinet Office hand had inquired of me: ‘Do you know, there are 32 separate management units” It’s Gormenghast in there!’ [70] As another Cabinet Office figure had predicted, Gordon Brown would fiercely resist any Cabinet Office encroachment on his conduits of money and power ~ the public service agreements. And so he did. The Treasury made it swiftly plain in the first days of the second term, after Blair and Brown had discussed the new dispensation, [71] that the Policy Delivery Unit would report to Mr Blair but it would answer also to the PSX Cabinet Committee, Gordon Brown’s public spending instrument, part of whose secretariat it would provide. [72]

The special and most central relationship of Blair I seemed to have carried over intact and substantially unaltered into Blair II. Much else remained to play for in terms of the bedding-down of the new departmental considerations and the possible shift of the senior Civil Service away from policy and strategy. The degree to which the passage of time and the decumulation  of vicissitudes would weaken the Prime Minister’s capacity to command his extraordinarily pliant Cabinet colleagues remained to be seen.

But it was now possible, as the second term began, to ponder more fully the kind of political animal who was exerting such sway from Downing Street. Mr Blair has confided in his mentor, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, his ‘regret that he read Law and not History at Oxford,’ and, in Jenkins words, that he ‘has become a considerable addict of political biography.’ [73] The Prime Minister plainly cares about his place and that of his administration in the ‘big picture’ of political history. So, on the evidence of the bulk of his first premiership, what kind of political animal are we dealing with? For one well-placed observer, it’s quite simple:

                        ‘Blair is the best Liberal Prime Minister the country has had since

                         Lloyd George but he doesn’t lead the Liberal Party. He leads a

                         Party that is not Marxist, not socialist, not even Croslandite. It

                         doesn’t really know what it believes in…It’s a New Labour

                         Government which has a very small cadre of New Liberals in

                         No.10 [New Liberal in the sense of Asquith, Lloyd George and

                         Churchill during their reformist phase in 1906-14]. This is more

                         important  than the Napoleonic/presidential style question.


                        ‘The problem is that very few Cabinet ministers understand this.

                         They were building their careers in Michael Foot’s time. Tony

                         built his career at that time too, but he never believed a word of

                         it…He’s basically leading a party which is very disconcerted. It

                         doesn’t know what to believe in. It can never quite decide if he’s

                         one of them. He isn’t one of them. He’s a younger version of

                         Roy Jenkins and all of Roy’s big agenda items are the Liberal

                         ones.’ [74]

One must, however, be a touch careful of treating Blair as early twentieth century New Liberalism reincarnate and freshly spun. Michael Young, author of the 1945 Labour Manifesto,Let Us Face the Future, once described its contents as ‘Beveridge plus Keynes plus socialism;’[75] in other words, developed New Liberalism plus a dash of public ownership. But Blair goes neither for nationalisation, demand management nor a universalist welfare state. Though Gordon Brown is more ‘a man of 1945’ [76] in instinct, emotion and rhetoric than his Downing Street neighbour and the wider Labour Party has a real sense of this. There is, however one element of the older tradition of British politics about Tony Blair which it is important not to forget ~ religion. He does not flaunt it, but it’s there. He travels with a bible among his boxes and is disturbed if he cannot attend Holy Communion on a Sunday. [77]

But it is another aspect of Blair which is very public and consistently expressed that both links him with Mrs Thatcher and Harold Wilson and adds coherence to both policy stances if not to his kaleidoscopic approach to government. It is his espousal of the notion of ‘meritocracy,’ the word invented in the mid-1950s by the same Michael Young who had drafted Labour’s election manifesto a decade earlier. Mr Blair made it the centrepiece of the speech he delivered in his Sedgefield constituency accepting the local party’s nomination of him as their candidate on 13 May 2001.

                        ‘We are not crypto-Thatcherites. We are not old-style socialists.

                          We are what we believe in. We are meritocrats. We believe

                          in empowering all our people. We should celebrate not just those

                          who are born well, but those who do well.’ [78]

The Prime Minister, it seemed, had no conception that Young’s The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2033, [79] was both a satire of such attitudes and a terrible warning of the consequences of such a philosophy both to the UK and to the Labour Party if it turned its back on R.H.Tawney-style notions of equality in favour of the overriding principle that IQ+Effort=Merit ( or, indeed, that the Civil Service reformed along Northcote-Trevelyan lines was the first meritocracy ~ hence the starting date of the book in 1870 ~ and the exemplar of what was to follow ). [80] It would be enormously ironic if the determined meritocrat in No.10 diluted the principle of a politically neutral career civil service in the name of efficiency.’

Civil service reform, naturally, is not the greatest of the Prime Minister’s current preoccupations, though he has made time for the pursuit of delivery during the current emergency.[81] Not for the first time serious military action ~ or the preparation for it ~ has absorbed the lion’s share of his fabled gifts as a focusser. Some time ago, I wrote that ‘Blair acquired a swift familiarity with the fusion of foreign and defence policy and intelligence that is triggered by military conflict. He was the first post-1945 premier to have presided over two wars in the space of six months (if you exclude the kind of colonial emergencies which were running at the same time as Korea or Suez).’ [82] And Tony Blair does regard the post-11 September crisis as tantamount to war. As he put it in his CNN interview six days later: ‘Whatever the technical or legal issue about the declaration of war [something the  UK  has  not  done, by  the  way, since January 1942 when we did so against Siam [83]], the fact is that we are at war with terrorism.’ [84]

While in Washington for talks with President Bush, the Prime Minister said he, along with the UK’s allies, would wage the fight against terrorism ‘for as long as it takes.’ ‘We have no option but to act,’ he explained on 20 September, and talked of the ‘huge and heavy responsibility’ that falls upon a Prime Minister when British forces are sent into action, [85]plainly speaking with the gravity that comes from sombre experience.

On that shining morning of his first landslide victory, neither Mr Blair nor anyone else could have foreseen the degree to which he would mutate into a war Prime Minister during the first 4 ½ years f his premiership. At such moments he remains a conviction politician and a commanding premier, but his style of operation is noticeably different ~ more collegial within Whitehall and more sensitive to Parliament without.

Gulf War II set the pattern. To his credit Blair had sought and received the specific approval of the House of Commons in February 1998 for the use of military force against Iraq should the need arise (to the conspicuous approbation of Tony Benn who pointed out that no previous post-1945 premier had done this). [86] But he did not seek to refresh it as the crisis recrudesced towards the end of the year. [87] Before the RAF Tornados flew against Iraq in Gulf War II in December 1998 (though constant sorties and frequent engagements were a feature of the RAF’s part in enforcing the ‘no-fly’ zones in Iraq before and after this), the Cabinet’s Defence and Overseas Policy Committee met more than once on the crisis and approved the use of force against Iraq. [88]

An early-morning Ministry of Defence meeting had before it the latest assessment from the Joint Intelligence Committee’s Middle East Current Intelligence Group which worked through the night to prepare it. [89] PINDAR, the MOD’s underground operations room, has a direct televisual link with the joint operational headquarters in its Northwood bunker under the Chilterns (then as now the focus of the UK’s contribution to military operations).

At the conclusion of this session, Robertson and Guthrie crossed Whitehall to No.10 to take part in what was known as ‘The Prime Minister’s Group on Iraq.’ Effectively this was a slimmed-down version of the Cabinet’s Defence and Overseas Policy Committee. Though it was not designated as a sub-group of that committee (as Thatcher’s Falklands ‘War Cabinet’ and Major’s during Gulf War I had been), the Cabinet Secretariat, led by Richard Wilson and the head of the Overseas and Defence Secretariat, Michael Pakenham, serviced it and took the minutes, thereby cladding the Blair style in the traditional masonry of the more collective processes of old. [90] The group met in Mr Blair’s study, the old Principal Private Secretary’s Office which adjoins the Cabinet Room. It consisted of the Prime Minister in the chair; the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook; plus Robertson and Guthrie. Also in attendance were Jonathan Powell, John Holmes, then the No.10 Principal Private Secretary, and Alastair Campbell. The Attorney General, John Morris, and the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, occasionally joined the group. [91]

As one insider suggested: ‘You can say it was a mini version of a War Cabinet. Only the people who needed to be there were there but with a proper organic link to the Cabinet. Everything was properly minuted and all the proper processes were followed. [92] Note the emphasis placed on the word ‘proper.’ On the last day of the air attacks on Baghdad and areas outside the southern no-fly zone, the Prime Minister joined the 8.00 a.m. meeting in PINDAR and had his photo taken.

It was evident that the Balkans War was likely to be both a bigger and more perilous matter

So how did Mr Blair run his Balkans War machine? Essentially it was another version of the Wilson hybrid. The Cabinet’s Defence and Overseas Policy Committee met more than once in the weeks before the air raids began to approve a British contribution to the use of NATO force against Serbia if Milosevic failed to meet the terms laid out at the second Rambouillet Conference. [93] The full Cabinet was reported to by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary regularly as Rambouillet II proceeded and in the period between the end of the talks in Paris and the first NATO air strikes on 24 March. [94] As one Cabinet minister, who was not a member of the Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, put it to me a trifle ruefully as the air war was about to begin: ‘Like everyone else, I didn’t expect to find myself sitting in War Cabinets. But we have had more discussions on Serbia/Kosovo than anything else. Tony has made sure there have been regular updates. We have had far more opportunity for discussion in Cabinet on Kosovo than on the Budget.’ [95]

Once the war began, a daily sequence of meetings managed the British input into NATO operations and the media presentation of the conflict. This time the Balkans Current Intelligence Group of the JIC provided the continuous assessment service (and the full Joint Intelligence Committee had special extra meetings on the war in addition to its regular Wednesday afternoon sessions). [96] At 8.00 each morning the Chiefs of Staff met in PINDAR with senior Defence Ministry officials and intelligence figures. [97]

‘The Prime Minister’s Group on Kosovo’ was, like its Gulf War II equivalent, essentially a slimmed-down Defence and Overseas Policy Committee, another Wilson hybrid, with the Cabinet Secretariat organizing the business. It met either in the PM’s study or in the Cabinet Room, according to the numbers involved. Once more at its core were the War Cabinet quartet of Blair, Cook, Robertson and Guthrie. Morris, the Attorney General, would attend when certain legal or targeting matters were under discussion. Powell, Campbell and John Sawers, the PM’s foreign affairs Private Secretary, also attended. [98]

So what did the handling of the Balkans War tell us about the Blair style? It underlined the blend of custom and practice and the desire for smaller, leaner decision-taking patterns. As one careful observer expressed it:


                        ‘Although the operation showed the PM’s preference for

                         operating on a daily basis in small groups, it also showed

                         the endurance of the entrenched constitutional system

                         whereby the “inner war cabinet” was linked continuously

                         by less frequent meetings of DOP and the Cabinet itself

                         overseeing a variety of subject-specific official groups.’ [99]

So how does the handling of the post-11 September crisis compare with the Blair style in Gulf War II and the Balkans War of 1999? A very well-placed observer made it plain that prior experience had proved a huge advantage. ‘The PM,’ he said,

                        ‘has been very impressive. In international crises he comes

                         alight. He has strong instincts, a feel for the United States and

                         the world context. It’s here he uses the traditional machinery

                         well (and doesn’t have to deal with Gordon Brown). He’s

                         good at using the intelligence. He’s very good at chairing

                         COBRA [the civil contingencies and emergencies group in

                         the Cabinet Office] and the ministerial group on terrorist

                         attacks. He’s also been good at putting the public statements

                         together and in giving public support to the USA while

                         urging restraint in private.’ [100]


It’s rather early to describe a rhythm of crisis management in post-11 September terms as it is early days in what is plainly going to be a protracted and complicated long-haul. But there are certain continuities from Blair’s previous incarnations as a conflict-manager. His initial ministerial group, even before it was designated a ‘War Cabinet’ was very like the other 1998-99 manifestations. It was redolent of the traditional model with the Cabinet Secretariat taking the minutes and the Cabinet Secretary present plus the big ministerial, military and intelligence players (though there are fluctuations according to circumstance).

It’s core consists of:

                                                            The PM

                                                            The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw;

                                                            The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon;

                                                            The Home Secretary, David Blunkett;

                                                            The Chancellor of the Exchequer,

                                                            Gordon Brown;

                                                            Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General.

The Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, was a regular attender as are John Scarlett, the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, the first MI6 man ever to head it; Sir Stephen Lander, Director-General of MI5; Sir Richard Dearlove, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service; GCHQ is represented also, sometimes by its Director, Francis Richards. Sir David Manning, the PM’s Foreign Affairs Adviser and head of the Cabinet Office’s Overseas and Defence Secretariat is a key link man. The Prime Minister is also supported by an array of people in his own office ~ Jonathan Powell, the No.10 Chief of Staff; Jeremy Heywood, No.10 Principal Private Secretary and Alastair Campbell.

On 8 October, it was announced that a proper ‘War Cabinet’ had been established. It was the informal group plus Clare Short, International Development Secretary and Robin Cook, Leader of the House. [101] Unlike Gulf War II and the Balkans War, this group is a proper Cabinet committee known as DOP (IT) ~ Defence and Overseas Policy (International Terrorism). [102]So serious and protracted is this conflict that the PM ~ commendably ~ has suppressed his preference for working either through bilateral meetings or informal groups rather than proper Cabinet committees.

Supporting the DOP (IT) is a special ad hoc JIC current intelligence group which is in operation round-the-clock and is overseen by the head of the Assessments Staff, Julian Miller. Tom McKane of the Overseas and Defence Secretariat runs another group underpinning the UK’s response to the terrorist attacks. The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Richard Wilson, chairs COBRA when it meets as an official committee. There is also an important Home Office-led interdepartmental official committee on the domestic consequences of international terrorism (which has a strong input from the secret agencies) and is looking at questions of law and the possibility of identity cards, among other matters. [103]

There are two other aspects of Mr Blair’s conduct of post-Black Tuesday affairs which need noting. First, his tolerance of Clare Short taking a different line to him on the crisis with her publicly expressed distaste for the idea of a US-led crusade to ‘make everybody do their bidding.’ [104] The Prime Minister also, has been sensitive towards Parliament. Both Houses were recalled for an emergency debate on the crisis on 14 September [105] and once more on 4 October).[106] Mr Blair also took the unprecedented step of inviting in the members of three House of Commons Select Committees (Defence, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs) plus the Commons and Lords Intelligence and Security Committee to a special briefing in No.10 on 24 September. [107]

What one might call Mr Blair’s post-Black Tuesday apparatus ~ it’s integration, its efficiency, its relative collegiality and its relative sensitivity towards Parliament ~ is in stark contrast to other aspects of the new, new centre. This is very difficult to map, let alone analyse, even for insiders. As a very candid No.10 spokesman told Jill Sherman of The Times in the early days of September 2001: ‘I honestly don’t know how many units we have. Some of these changes are still being worked through.’ [108]

Lurking behind this understatement is a serious point. The spokesman was not describing a steady state. The latest fusions ~ both of private secretaries and special advisers in No.10 and ever more of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Office ~ strike me as a temporary and uneasy stand-off between a Cabinet Secretary devoted to preserving the notion of a career, non-partisan Civil Service and a Prime Minister who really would prefer a British adaptation of the White House. I have a suspicion that what the PM’s people really want may become apparent when Sir Richard retires next year. I hope I am wrong, but the next Cabinet Secretary will be required before appointment to agree to be the civil service head of a merged Cabinet Office and No.10. And that if an insider cannot be found who is prepared to be less fastidious than Sir Richard Wilson, the Prime Minister may look outside Whitehall for the succession. I hope that the Civil Service Commissioners and the Commons Public Administration Committee will be ready to resist for Mr Blair will have put a match to any sustainable notion of a Northcote-Trevelyan style career public service ~ all, no doubt, done in the name of efficiency, delivery and meritocracy. 



[1] Private information.

[2] Benjamin Disraeli, Tancred, (              , 1847), p.

[3] James Naughtie, The Rivals: The Intimate Story of a Political Marriage, (Fourth Estate, 2001), p.307.

[4] Robert Harris, The Testing of Tony Blair, talk, May 2000, p.74.

[5]  John Rentoul, Tony Blair: Prime Minister, ( Little Brown, 2001 ), pp.570-1.

[6]  ‘Fuel Crisis COBR [Cabinet Office Briefing Room] Sitrep No.1: 0600 12 September 2000.

[7]  Private information.

[8]  Private information.

[9]  Between 14 and 23 September 2000, the four main opinion polls gave the Conservatives a lead

       ranging from two to eight points in a year which, till then, Labour had rested atop an average

       lead of 15 points. Rentoul, Tony Blair, p.572 & fn 2 on p.578.

[10]  Quoted in Peter Hennessy, ‘When Tony wants and Gordon requires,’ ‘The NS Essay,’New

       Statesman, 18 December 2000, pp.25-7. This was an abridged version of my late 2000

       ‘overflight’ ~ ‘The First Blair Premiership’ delivered to the Public Management Foundation

       on 12 December 2000.

[11]  Rentoul, Tony Blair, p.570.

[12]  Private information.

[13]  Magnus Linklater, ‘Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,’ Times 2, 24 May 2001; Peter Riddell,

      ‘Blair finally takes charge of farming emergency,’ The Times, 26 March 2001; Peter Riddell,

      ‘The last days of the court of King Tony,’ The Times, 30 April 2001.

[14]  Quoted in Hennessy, ‘When Tony wants and Gordon requires.’

[15]  Private information.

[16]  Private information.

[17]  Private information.

[18]  Private information.

[19]  Private information.

[20]  Private information.

[21]  Private information.

[22]  Private information.

[23]  Anne Applebaum, ‘I am still normal,’ The Sunday Telegraph, 18 March 2001.

[24]  Private information.

[25]  Andrew Rawnsley, Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour, ( Hamish

      Hamilton, 2001 ).

[26]  Private information.

[27]  Peter Riddell, ‘Blair As Prime Minister’ in Anthony Seldon (ed), The Blair Effect: The Blair

      Government 1997-2001, ( Little Brown, 2001 ), p.36.

[28]  Private information.

[29]  Quoted in Hennessy, ‘When Tony wants and Gordon requires.’

[30]  Rentoul, Tony Blair, pp.577-8.

[31]  Private information.

[32]  Quoted in Hennessy, ‘When Tony wants and Gordon requires.’

[33]  Private information.

[34]  Quoted in Hennessy, ‘When Tony wants and Gordon requires.’

[35]  Private information.

[36]  Lord Haskins was speaking on The Top Job 2: The King of the Beasts, BBC Radio 4,

       16 October 2000.

[37]  Public Services Productivity: Meeting the challenge, ( HM Treasury, 2000 ), p.10.

[38]  Ibid.

[39]  Lord Haskins interviewed for The Top Job, 4 September 2000.

[40]  Public Services Productivity: Meeting the challenge, p.10.

[41]  Private information.

[42]  Private information.

[43]  Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Reinforcing Standards: Review of the

       First Report of the Committee in Public Life, Cm 4557-1, ( Stationery Office, 2000 ), chapter 6,


[44]  House of Commons, session 2000-2001, Public Administration Committee, Fourth Report,

       Special Advisers: Boon or Bane? HC 293, ( Stationery Office, 2001 ), p.xxv.

[45]  House of Commons, Official Report, 13 July 2000. Pt 16 on the Stationery Office’s

       Parliamentary website.

[46]  House of Commons, Session 2000-2001, Select Committee on Public Administration,

      Third Report, The Ministerial Code: Improving the Rule Book, HC 235, ( Stationery

      Office, 2001 ), p.xvi.

[47]  Ibid, p.xvii.

[48]  Ibid. Appendices, pp.2-3.

[49]  Ibid, p.2. Wright to Blair, 10 May 2000.

[50]  Ibid, p.3. Blair to Wright, 26 May 2000.

[51]  Private information.

[52]  Peter Hennessy, Whitehall, ( Secker and Warburg, 1989 ), pp.305-6, 335, 667.

[53]  The Ministerial Code: Improving the Rule Book, Appendices, p.3. Wright to Blair,

       8 June 2000.

[54]  Ibid. Blair to Wright, 17 June 2000.

[55]  House of Commons, Session 2000-01, Liaison Committee, First Report,

       Shifting the Balance: Unfinished Business, Vol.1, HC 321-1, ( Stationery

       Office, 2001 ), p.xliii, Sheldon to Blair, 14 December 2000.

[56]  Ibid, p.xliv, Blair to Sheldon, 29 January 2001.

[57]  Applebaum, ‘I am still normal.’

[58]  House of Commons, Session 2000-2001, Public Administration Select Committee, Seventh

       Report, Making Government Work: The Emerging Issues, HC 94, ( Stationery Office, 2001 ),


[59]  Colin Brown and Jo Dillon, ‘Blair plots revenge on Civil Service,’ The Independent

       on Sunday, 29 April 2001.

[60]  Private information.

[61]  Peter Riddell, ‘Blair looks to business  for Whitehall fix,’ The Times, 1 June 2001.

[62]  I am very grateful to Peter Riddell for sending me a copy of the transcript.

[63]  Private information.

[64]  Private information.

[65]  Private information.

[66]  Private information.

[67]  Private information.

[68]  Jill Sherman, ‘Brown protects powerbase from No.10,’ The Times, 15 June 2001.

[69]  Ibid.

[70]  Private information.

[71]  Private information.

[72]  Sherman, ‘Brown protects power base from No.10.’

[73]  Roy Jenkins, ‘Gladstone and Books,’ in Peter Fromas (ed), The Grand Old Man: Sermons

      and Speeches in Honour of W.E.Gladstone, ( Monad Press, 2000 ), p.25.

[74]  Private information.

[75]  Conversation with Lord Young of Dartington, 24 March 1994.

[76]  Lord McNally has used this phrase in my hearing on several occasions.

[77]  Michael Cockerell, ‘An Inside View on Blair’s Number 10,’ in Seldon (ed)

       The Blair Effect, p.573.

[78]  ‘Tony Blair’s first keynote speech of the campaign,’ Labour Party, 13 May 2001.

[79]  Michael Young, The Rise of the Meritocracy, 1870-2033, ( first published in 1958 ),

       ( Penguin edn, 1961 ).

[80]  Ibid, pp.19-22.

[81] Peter Riddell, ‘Prudence is looking like a good-time girl now,’ The Times, 1 October 2001.

[82] Peter Hennessy, The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders since 1945, (Penguin, 2000), p.502.

[83] Nation at War, (Ministry of Information, 1945), p.5.

[84] Andrew Grice, ‘Blair declares Britain is “at war” with terrorism,’ The Independent, 17 September


[85] Rupert Cornwell, ‘British forces in action “within days,”’ The Independent, 21 September 2001.

[86]  See Matt Lyus and Peter Hennessy, ‘Tony Blair, Past Prime Ministers, Parliament and the Use

     of Military Force, Strathclyde Papers on Government and Politics, No.113 (Department of

     Government, University of Strathclyde, 1999); and House of Commons, Official Report, vol.306,

     No.121, Session 16th February-20th February 1998, (Stationery Office, 1998), p.927.

[87]  Lyus and Hennessy, ‘Tony Blair, Past Prime Minister, Parliament and the Use of Military Force,


[88] Private information.

[89] Private information.

[90] Private information.

[91] Private information.

[92] Hennessy, ‘The Importance of Being Tony,’ p.13.

[93] Private information.

[94] Private information.

[95] Private information.

[96] Private information.

[97] Private information.

[98] Private information.

[99] Hennessy, ‘The Importance of Being Tony,’ p.15.

[100] Private information.

[101] Philip Webster, ‘Brown fits the bill for War Cabinet,’ The Times, 9 October 2001.

[102] Private information.

[103] Private information.

[104] Patrick Wintour and Kevin Maguire, ‘Cabinet unity broken again by Short,’ The Guardian, 21

      September 2001.

[105] Patrick Wintour and Alan Travis, ‘Society’s freedoms may be curtailed,’ The Guardian, 25

      September 2001.

[106] James Landale, Greg Hurst and Melissa Kite, ‘Commons stand firm on case for action,’

     The Times, 5 October 2001.

[107] Patrick Wintour, ‘Blair briefs MP’s on war aims,’ The Guardian, 25 September 2001.

[108] Tom Baldwin, Philip Webster and Jill Sherman, ‘Come in No.9: Blair’s numbers game,’

      The Times, 6 September 2001.

This event was on Wed, 07 Nov 2001

Lord Hennessey

Professor Lord Hennessy

Professor of Rhetoric

Peter Hennessy is Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary, University of London, and was recently elected a Fellow of the British Academy...

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