10 The oratory of Tony Blair Mark Bennister A minimum to be expected from a political leader is the ability to make a few memorable remarks that seem to sum up what the leader and the party stand for, and the kind of meaning we might find in existence. (Horne, 2001: 101) Tony Blair led the Labour party for thirteen years, turned its fortunes around, and achieved the distinction of three successive general election victories – something that had eluded all his predecessors as Labour leader. If Blair’s party leadership were judged solely on electoral performance

in Labour orators from Bevan to Miliband

3 Tony Blair’s personality and leadership style How can we understand and measure the political personality and leadership style of individuals in positions of power? While we may accept the case made in the previous chapter that individuals can and do influence political events, this does not solve the thorny problem of knowing which aspects of an individual’s worldview and beliefs are significant, nor provide us with a way of measuring these putative casual variables in a systematic fashion. Indeed, the real objection to studying individuals as significant

in The Blair identity
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Leadership and foreign policy

Why did Tony Blair take Britain to war with Iraq? Because, this book argues, he was following the core political beliefs and style—the Blair identity—manifest and consistent throughout his decade in power. Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and finally Iraq were wars to which Blair was drawn due to his black-and-white framing of the world, his overwhelming confidence that he could shape events, and his tightly-held, presidential style of government. This new application of political psychology to the British prime ministership analyses every answer Blair gave to a foreign policy question in the House of Commons during his decade in power in order to develop a portrait of the prime minister as decision maker. Drawing upon original interviews with major political, diplomatic and military figures at the top of British politics, the book reconstructs Blair's wars, tracing his personal influence on British foreign policy and international politics during his tumultuous tenure.

This book analyses the oratorical and rhetorical techniques of twelve leading orators who have affected the evolution of Labour Party politics in the post-war period, and demonstrates the important role of oratory. The twelve leading orators are Aneurin Bevan, Hugh Gaitskell, Tony Benn, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan, Barbara Castle, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. The book considers how the politician in question used their oratorical skills in relation to three key audiences: the Parliamentary Party; the wider party membership; and the electorate. These audiences relate to three important oratorical arenas, namely Parliament; party conference; public and media engagement (the electoral arena). The book assesses how political rhetoric has been deployed in an effort to advance competing ideological positions within the party, and the role of oratory in communicating Labour's ideology to a wider audience. It argues that oratory remains a significant feature of Labour politics in Britain, and analyses how it has changed over time and in different contexts. A small (but growing) number of scholars have energised the study of rhetoric in British politics, and brought it more mainstream attention in the discipline. The academic study of the art of oratory has received relatively little attention from scholars interested in British politics.

How and why governments pass laws that threaten their power

Why do governments pass freedom of information laws? The symbolic power and force surrounding FOI makes it appealing as an electoral promise but hard to disengage from once in power. However, behind closed doors compromises and manoeuvres ensure that bold policies are seriously weakened before they reach the statute book.

The politics of freedom of information examines how Tony Blair's government proposed a radical FOI law only to back down in fear of what it would do. But FOI survived, in part due to the government's reluctance to be seen to reject a law that spoke of 'freedom', 'information' and 'rights'. After comparing the British experience with the difficult development of FOI in Australia, India and the United States – and the rather different cases of Ireland and New Zealand – the book concludes by looking at how the disruptive, dynamic and democratic effects of FOI laws continue to cause controversy once in operation.

UK central government and the European Union

It is some thirty-five years since the United Kingdom joined what is now called the European Union. What has been the impact of the EU on UK central government? Has it been transformed or merely adapted to new pressures and requirements? This book explores the ‘Europeanisation’ of the work of civil servants and ministers and how they engage with the EU. Drawing on fresh empirical evidence—including interviews with over 200 serving and retired officials and ministers—it offers a comprehensive analysis of the spreading impact of European integration across government. The study is placed in the context of political divisions over the European Union but the book outlines the often neglected way in which the EU has transformed the business of government. This account charts the process from the Macmillan government's 1961 application to join the European Communities through to the end of Tony Blair's premiership. The book examines the character and timing of responses across government, covering the core government departments and also those more recently affected, such as the Ministry of Defence. It argues that central government has organized itself efficiently to deal with the demands of EU membership despite the often controversial party-political divisions over Europe. However, in placing the book's findings in comparative context, the conclusion is that the effectiveness of UK governments in the EU has been less striking.

The changing face of European policy making under Blair and Ahern

As two of the longest-serving prime ministers in Europe, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were in power during one of the most tumultuous periods of European integration. This book offers an insight into how they responded to the demands and opportunities of European Union (EU) membership at the national level. Drawing on extensive interviews with key figures, it explores how the two leaders sought to radically reshape the EU national policy-making process in the UK and Ireland in order to further their strategic policy agendas. The book therefore asks three key questions. How did the national EU policy process change between 1997 and 2007? To what extent did the UK and Irish policy processes converge or diverge? Did the reforms enhance the projection of national policy? These empirical and comparative questions are related to broader theoretical and conceptual debates concerning Europeanisation. By employing conceptual and analytical frameworks, the book considers what these reforms tell us about the nature of the ‘EU effect’ in different member states. Do governments simply adjust to EU-level pressures for change or try to adapt strategically in order to maximise their influence? Are the changes attributable to political agency or do they derive from longer-term structural developments in Brussels?

In pursuit of the good state

Africa was a key focus of Britain's foreign policy under Tony Blair. Military intervention in Sierra Leone, increases in aid and debt relief, and grand initiatives such as the Commission for Africa established the continent as a place in which Britain could ‘do good’. This book critically explores Britain's fascination with Africa. It argues that, under New Labour, Africa represented an area of policy which appeared to transcend politics. Gradually, it came to embody an ideal state activity around which politicians, officials and the wider public could coalesce, leaving behind more contentious domestic and international issues. Building on the story of Britain and Africa under Blair, the book draws wider conclusions about the role of ‘good’ and idealism in foreign policy. In particular, it discusses how international relations provide opportunities to create and pursue ideals, and why they are essential for the wellbeing of political communities. The book argues that state actors project the idea of ‘good’ onto idealised, distant objects, in order to restore a sense of the ‘good state’.

Blair and Brown’s logic of history

New Labour came to power in 1997 promising to modernize Britain and make it fit for the twenty-first century. This book studies Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's combined attempt to sell the idea of a European future to the British people. It is about the art of rhetoric, persuasion and the techniques of modern political communication, and the 'Europe question' in British politics. It traces the progressivist elements of New Labour's discourse on British European policy with reference to the place perceptions of history occupied in Blair and Brown's speeches on foreign policy. The book explains the idea of 'norm entrepreneurship' and how it can be adapted to help us think through New Labour's handling of British European policy. It focuses on various aspects of the politics, language and decision-making style of New Labour. Theoretical approaches to Euroscepticism to help us understand, through the empirical data in the speeches, how Blair and Brown constructed their identity as 'Europeans' against their perceived 'sceptical' opponents. The method of discourse analysis used to study the strategies Blair and Brown put in place to realize their goals, is discussed. The book presents the evidence on the ways in which the Prime Minister and Chancellor discursively constructed the Europe question as a matter of protecting and/or advancing vital British national interests. Trapped between a broadly hostile media and an apathetic public, Blair and Brown failed to provide the necessary leadership to see Britain to a European future.

Renovation or resignation?

This book makes an important contribution to the existing literature on European social democracy in the wake of the 2008 financial crash and ensuing recession. It considers ways in which European social democratic parties at both the national and European level have responded to the global economic crisis (GEC). The book also considers the extent to which the authors might envisage alternatives to the neo-liberal consensus being successfully promoted by those parties within the European Union (EU). The book first explores some of the broader thematic issues underpinning questions of the political economy of social democracy during the GEC. Then, it addresses some of the social democratic party responses that have been witnessed at the level of the nation state across Europe. The book focuses in particular on some of the countries with the longest tradition of social democratic and centre-left party politics, and therefore focuses on western and southern Europe. In contrast to the proclaimed social democratic (and especially Party of European Socialists) ambitions, the outcomes witnessed at the EU level have been less promising for those seeking a supranational re-social democratization. In order to understand the EU-level response of social democratic party actors to the Great Recession, the book situates social democratic parties historically. In the case of the British Labour Party, it also identifies the absence of ideological alternatives to the 'there is no alternative' (TINA)-logic that prevailed under the leadership of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.