It is no secret that Tony Blair is a deeply religious man. Yet as prime minister, this was not allowed to permeate his public persona – indeed, his spin doctor Alastair Campbell’s line “we don’t do God” has become the stuff of legend.
Now that he is no longer in office, no such rules apply, and Blair has revealed that he once wanted to end a televised address to the nation with “God bless Britain”, echoing American presidents who traditionally sign off with “God bless America”.
Speaking at a conference on leadership at London’s Royal Albert Hall, organised by the Holy Trinity Brompton Church, the former prime minister said:
I had to do some address to the country when I was Prime Minister.
You know the American president finishes an address to the American people by saying ‘God bless America’. “I had the idea of finishing my address by saying “God bless Britain”.
This caused consternation in the whole system. A committee was convened, and we had to discuss it.
I remember we had this debate on and off but finally one of the civil servants said in a very po-faced way “I just remind you Prime Minister, this is not America” in this very disapproving tone, so I gave up the idea. I think it is a shame that you can’t since it is obviously part of what you are.
Blair, who left Downing Street in 2007 and has since founded the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and converted to Catholicism, went on to defend the role of religion in both private and public life.