The youthful ideals of Tony Blair

A 22-page letter from 1982 to Michael Foot (then Labour leader) penned by a youthful Tony Blair has been uncovered. Fresh from an electoral hammering in a by-election, Blair writes of the influence of Marx (positive and negative) on his thinking, the need to deal with the Militant Tendency, urged radical left-wing policies for the next election and his confidence that Labour would win.

  • Crataegus

    don’t, for goodness’ sake, bother to reply! I was very hesitant in writing: you might consider it either an impertinence or sycophancy

    No just pushy.

    Can’t read the letter without hearing his voice. Same Tony. Cringe.

  • CS Parnell

    I wonder to whom Paisley was writing at the same stage in his career and what he was urging them to do?

    Some people’s youthful indiscretions are easier to take than others.

  • fair_deal

    “I wonder to whom Paisley was writing at the same stage in his career and what he was urging them to do?”

    According to Norman Porter senior, one of the people who gave him guidance was the independent Unionist MP for Woodvale DI Nixon.

  • CS Parnell

    The same Nixon who was a well known sectarian murderer when a member of the RIC/RUC?

  • Rory

    It seems that young Tony was finally most influenced by a previous incumbent at Beaconsfield – Disraeli.

    Who might Paisley have addressed? Presumably only God in order to remind Him of His duty towards Ulster and to insist their be no backsliding on His part.

  • Keith M

    Given that Nixon was dead for almost 20 years before Paisley sought political office, someone must think that Big Ian has supernatural powers!

  • fair_deal

    WP Nicholson, the famous evangelical preacher, had a major impact on Paisley particularly his preaching style and mannerisms. Wilton, a key player in independent Unionist circles, would also have had an influence. The two historic figures Pailsye seems to have been influecned by are Henry Cooke and Carson.

    “The same Nixon who was a well known sectarian murderer when a member of the RIC/RUC?”

    In nationalist histography yes but as the tabloids and others know you can’t libel the dead. The fact that Nixon successfully sued for libel (twice) people who made the claim while he was alive seems to get overlooked.

    There were also dark mutterings from nationalist historians that PRONI was siting on the conclusive documents that would prove the claims. When PRONI released all the documents they didn’t.

  • fair_deal

    Keith M

    Paisley was actively involved in politics long before he sought political office. Paisley was introduced to Paisley when he was a young man. Often Paisley would accompany Nixon in his car to Stormont and watch his contributions in the debates until Nixon’s death in 1949.

    If you read the Hansard of the time Nixon and Cahir Healy seemed to have an unofficial competition about who could ask the most questions over the widest range of subjects.

  • PC Prod

    On more than one occassion I’ve heard Paisley say he learnt everything about winning elections from the late DI Nixon. Nixon, along with people like Tommy Henderson were the thorns in the side of the Unionist gerintocracy who ran Stormont in those days.

  • PC Prod


    Re. Henry Cooke – absolutely spot on. I’ve just finished reading A History of Presbyterianism in Ireland byt Thomas Hamilton – the story of Cooke’s life and works is detailed in it and one can see the similraities to Paisley instantly. Do the Free P’s not have a Cooke Memorial Hall somewhere?

    Another influence would have been Alderman “Daddy” Duff from Sandy Row.

  • fair_deal


    Independent Unionism from 1921 is a political strand that needs a serious historical work done on it and equally important the impact it had upon mainstream Unionism. What work has been done to date is decidedly patchy or as an aside in the bigger Unionism v nationalism stuff. It would also undermine the one-party state mythology.

    There is a QUB undergraduate dissertation about Nixon’s early political career you might be interested in tracking down. I heard Wilton’s papers have recently been donated to a local museum.

  • fyi

    PC Prod: Do the Free P’s not have a Cooke Memorial Hall somewhere?

    Cooke Centenary Church Hall is on Park Road, near the Ormeau Road end – not sure if it belongs to the Free Presbyterians or not, but I do know it’s been used as a polling station.

    Here endeth the contribution…

  • Gum

    An article on the ideological journey of Tony Blair ends up an argument over a historical figure with a reputation we can argue about till kingdom come. Like any other slugger post really…

    Found the article really interesting, both as a piece of history and as a sign as to what Blair was thinking and where he was going. There’s a follow-up in the guardian today by Roy hattersly if anyone’s interested:

  • Garibaldy

    Interesting to see Blair came to socialism through Deustcher’s biography on Trotsky. I also read this at an “impressionable age” and it certainly stimulated my own interests in such ideas, even if in retrospect I can see it for the piece of Trotskyist rubbish that it is. Disturbing to think I might have something in common with Tony.

    At least it shows that Blair was interested in idaes and principles. I have to wonder how many of today’s 29 year olds (even those involved in political parties) read political philosophy of any sort. Blair himself bears a great deal of responsibility for this.

    Much as I agree with Gum on the way the thread has gone, I can’t help asking fair deal how likely did he think it was there would be a fair trial of claims Nixon was involved in illegal and murderous activities, which are now accepted well beyond what he calls “nationalist historiography”

  • Gum

    True, Garibaldy, putting a former tabloid editor in charge of govt. communications kills off any chance that politicians will read political philosophy of any sort! You think that tradition is dead in the water or can it be resurrected?

  • Garibaldy

    I think TV is the main threat. The issue of course goes beyond politicians. Look at the tradition of self-help and self-improvement that the British Labour movement had even up until the 1950s and 1960s. Reading societies, cultural activities etc. Even the Left Book Club and Everyman Library. All that is gone, or virtually gone.

    In terms of politicians, we’ll need the return of big ideas for that to happen. What we have now are competitions for managing the economy and public services within incredibly constricted parameters. Before Thatcherism and the breakdown of the social democratic consensus that was the case, but the difference was that the welfare state might have led to further developments, hence political thought mattered.

    So can’t see that tradition re-emerging for a while but equally the communications revolution may yet make reading more popular once again. If we can read Burke or Marx or Keith Joseph on a flat screen on the bus or the Tube, who knows?