Blair was the most instinctively pro-European PM since Heath, says his former policy chief. But his government made some big mistakes—and contributed to Eurosceptic populismby Andrew Adonis / November 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
On 10th November, Andrew Adonis gave a lecture at Hertford College, Oxford on Tony Blair, for whom he worked as Head of the No 10 Policy Unit. You can find the full text below and watch it here. The talk was part of a series on prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher and their relationships with the continent.
In addition to being Blair’s policy chief, Adonis was Transport Secretary under Gordon Brown and now chairs the National Infrastructure Commission. He writes regularly for Prospect.
In my diaries there is this wonderful story Tony Blair told of President Chirac:
“Jacques told me how surprised he was that we had a homosexual in the cabinet. He’d been reading about Chris Smith. ‘We couldn’t possibly do that in France,’ he said. ‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I’ve got four in my Cabinet.’ His jaw dropped. ‘Four? Four?’ he repeated. ‘Mon Dieu, dear Tony, and you can’t even join the euro!’
Advancing gay rights was one of Tony Blair’s great achievements. By contrast, his support for the euro never came out of the closet and his greatest legacy on Europe is something which at the time of enlargement in 2004 he said would never happen: the migration to Britain of nearly one and a half million Poles and other central and East Europeans, which is one of the reasons why we may be leaving the European Union.
My diaries contain two contemporary notes by Tony on his legacy written shortly before he left office in June 2007. In the first he writes of “A nation open, at ease with globalisation, prepared to compete on its merits not its history.” Of Britain’s international standing he says: “We took Britain’s key alliances, Europe and America, and kept them both strong. In Europe, the UK went from the Beef War and isolation to leading the debates on European defence, economic reform, energy, enlargement, and did the Budget deal.” In another note he is more succinct: “On Europe, we have moved from the sidelines to the Centre. We have been prepared to defy Eurosceptic opinion to do so.”