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