Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
15 May 2012updated 26 Sep 2015 7:01pm

Tony Blair wanted to end televised address with “God bless Britain”

The former prime minister says that civil servants stopped him from using the phrase during a speech

By Samira Shackle

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”.

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.

This caused consternation in the whole system. A committee was convened, and we had to discuss it.

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas

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.