The Blair bye-bye yesterday was long anticipated, and turned out to be rather as expected. The Prime Minister had chosen the time and manner of his departure. The announcement could be seen as the opening ceremony of a seven week-long event. The ceremony was well-produced, directed, and acted
The long goodbye
The manner of Tony Blair’s departure invites comparisons with other dramatic productions from the classics to modern cultural icons.
In the end, I found a Shakespearian treatment most compelling:
Act one scene one: The private meeting
It is dawn in London Town in the Month of May. Courtiers begin arriving at 10 Downing Street in ones and twos. Gordon Brown, heir apparent has his special entrance. Literally, because he can still stride in through the portals of his own bit of the palace. [Well, OK, the front door of No 11, which has a connecting passage to No 10]. The king is ensconced in the castle that he is about to relinquish.
After a brief time, The courtiers emerge into the street, somber and hushed. Each briefly tells the same tale.
‘He told us he is to go. Gordon spoke for us all, acknowledging his great deeds’.
Gordon emerges and confirms that the story has been well-told.
Act one scene two: The journey to Trimdon
Tony Blair journeys to the North, to speak the news in public, to his people at Trimdon Labour Club in the Northumberland constituency of Sedgefield.
We learn of his progress through observers who witness the car leaving Downing Street, and then a plane leaving for Sedgefield, and then another car.
At Trimdon, he is welcomed by cheering and adoring followers. Off-stage we hear the cries of dissidents: faint but audible for a while, then overwhelmed by the general clamor of approval.
Act one scene three: The announcement
At last, the grand entry. He emerges from the embraces of the loyal throng. Reporters from around the world jostle for position. Tony Blair mounts the podium, speaks.
Tony: Today I announce my decision to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party.
Chorus. ‘Tis not so. Say ‘tis not so.
Tony: The party will now select a new leader. On 27 June I will tender my resignation from the office of prime minister to the Queen.
Chorus. ‘Tis not so. Say ‘tis not so. Etc.
Tony: Nineteen ninety-seven was a moment for a new beginning, for sweeping away all the detritus of the past. Expectations were so high, too high, too high in a way for either of us.
Puzzled foreign observer: Either of us. Who does he mean?
Loyalist: Quiet. Let him go on
Tony: Decision-making is hard…putting the country first
doesn’t mean doing the right thing according to conventional wisdom
or the prevailing consensus
or the latest snapshot of opinion
it means doing what you genuinely believe to be right.
Your duty is to act according to your conviction.
Loyalist: It is hard. To act according to your conviction.
Tony: There is only one government since 1945 that can say all of the following
better health and education results
and economic growth in every quarter.
Loyalist to foreign observer: This one. He speaks of This government, as he claims these claims
Tony: I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. I did so out of belief. So Afghanistan and then Iraq, the latter, bitterly controversial
Chorus: It is so
Tony: Removing Saddam .. as with the Taleban,
was over with relative ease.
But the blowback since has been fierce and unrelenting and costly.
I think we must see it through.
The terrorists, who threaten .. will never give up
It is a test of will and of belief.
But believe one thing if nothing else
I did what I thought was right for our country
Voice in the hall: Say tis true
Faint cry without: Impeach the murderer
Chorus: He did what he thought was right
Tony: I have been very lucky and very blessed.
This country is a blessed nation.
The British are special, the world knows it, in our innermost thoughts, we know it.
This is the greatest nation on Earth. It has been an honour to serve it.
I give my thanks to you, the British people,
for the times I have succeeded,
and my apologies to you for the times I have fallen short.
[pauses. Speaks quietly]
Chorus: Hooray! Tony! Do not go. Etc.
Curtain falls, as crowd surges forward to touch Tony.