17 March 2020
Students put questions to former prime minister in special sessions
A former prime minister was in the hot seat for a series of sessions held with students at King’s College London.
Tony Blair, premier from 1997-2007, took part in question-and-answer sessions with students at Bush House on Monday, with the subjects covered ranging from the Iraq war and coping with a national crisis, through to the Scottish Labour Party and former press secretary Alastair Campbell.
The sessions were hosted by the Strand Group, supported by the Department of Political Economy at King’s, and formed part of the students’ studies into ‘the Blair Years’.
Mr Blair offered the groups a unique insight into the process of government during his time in office while also sharing his thoughts on policies for the future.
Asked about what he learned on dealing with the crises of his time in office, such as 9/11 or the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, Mr Blair said: “I realised that in times of crisis, you have got to reposition the government to absolutely focus on the crisis. That’s what I would be doing if I was in back in government now.
“You have to immerse yourself in the detail, not so you can give the right answers, but so you can ask the right questions.”
Mr Blair also spoke about the need for disagreements and constructive solutions in the relationship between prime minister and chancellor, about the need to position the technology revolution at the heart of future policy, and about the fortunes of the Scottish Labour Party.
Asked about regional inequality and tackling the housing shortage, Mr Blair said: “If I was back in government today, infrastructure would be a major priority. When people talk about the regions, if you look at our major cities, they haven’t done so badly. It’s the outlying areas that have no fared as well. I would take a much more focussed approach on those areas.”
The Strand Group brings together figures from government, business, journalism and academia to capture institutional memory and provide a historical dimension to the understanding of contemporary challenges facing the economy, public services, defence, intelligence and the machinery of government.
The Strand Group delivers five modules that blend theory and practice, bring practitioners in the class room and use case studies to understand how government really works: ‘the Treasury and an Introduction to Economic History – in Partnership with HM Treasury’, ‘the History of the Prime Minister 1945–2016 – in partnership with No 10 Downing St’ (taught over two modules), ‘the Blair Years’ and ‘the History and Governance of London’.
Each module is available to students taking MA in Public Policy, MA in Politics and Contemporary History or MA in Political Economy.