Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
9 September 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:14am

Is Blair confusing fiction with reality?

Screenwriter points out that a scene in Blair’s book bears more than a passing resemblance to the fi

By Samira Shackle

Tony Blair’s critics have often accused him of blurring the line between fantasy and reality. But quite apart from dodgy dossiers, is the former prime minister confusing fictional representations of himself with real-life memories?

Peter Morgan, scriptwriter of the film The Queen, has pointed out that an account of Blair’s first meeting with Queen Elizabeth after becoming prime minister in 1997 in his memoir, A Journey, bears more than a passing resemblance to a scene in the 2006 film.

In A Journey, Blair says that Queen Elizabeth told him:

You are my 10th prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

In The Queen, the monarch (played by Helen Mirren) says:

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

You are my tenth prime minister, Mr Blair. My first was Winston Churchill.

A spokesman for Random House claimed that it was impossible that Blair could have been inspired by his on-screen self: “As Tony Blair says whenever he is asked about it, he hasn’t actually ever seen the film ‘The Queen’.”

So what’s the explanation, then? Telepathy? Insight? Bugging?

Morgan advanced a few theories to the Telegraph:

I wish I could pretend that I had inside knowledge, but I made up those lines. No minutes are taken of meetings between prime ministers and monarchs and the convention is that no one ever speaks about them, so I didn’t even attempt to find out what had been said.

There are three possibilities. The first is I guessed absolutely perfectly, which is highly unlikely; the second is Blair decided to endorse what I imagined as the official line; and the third is that he had one gin and tonic too many and confused the scene in the film with what had actually happened, and this I find amusing because he always insisted he had never even seen it.

Hat-tip: New York Times Arts Beat blog.