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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

wtf: did Tony Blair plagiarize ‘The Queen’?

Former British prime minister Tony Blair has written a memoir. Perhaps you’ve heard that Blair was greeted with thrown shoes and pelted eggs at his first public signing of the book in Dublin. (He subsequently canceled a signing and the book launch party in London.) But Peter Morgan, screenwriter of the brilliant film The Queen — about the tumultuous time when Blair was new in office and had to navigate a tricky relationship with the royal family in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death — has hurled another rotten tomato. From the Telegraph:

In A Journey, Blair claims that the Queen said to him: “You are my 10th prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born.” In Morgan’s script to the 2006 film The Queen, Mirren, in the title role, tells Michael Sheen’s Blair: “You are my 10th prime minister, Mr Blair. My first was Winston Churchill.” Morgan tells me: “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.”

Is it simply an inescapable part of a politician’s makeup that he cannot help but lie when the truth would be more interesting? I mean, whatever the Queen said to Blair, no matter how banal it was, would be interesting: in fact, the more banal it was, the more interesting it would be, just for the Queen being so banal. Am I wrong?

I tell ya what, though: It makes me want to watch The Queen again. Can we elect Michael Sheen to Downing Street? Cuz he’s a great prime minister. Not like that Blair guy was.

(via Cinematical)

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  • Allan.

    I find that, for the most part, people find the truth to be less interesting. Discovering or analyzing facts in order to ascertain the truth requires the ability to be rational. And although people are rational, or try to be so, in certain arenas (the best mortgage, finding a good doctor, buying proper materials for home renovations, etc), we are all born into cultures that pride themselves in, and actively inculcate, credulity. Hence religion’s power, and the ability of it’s doctrines to corrupt people’s reasoning capacity. Mr. Blair is creating his legacy. The queen is the head of the Church of England. A nice reference to have on your side, particularly if you are also the head of a religious foundation, which Mr. Blair is.

  • Lisa

    Clearly Peter Morgan is just that good

    I think this was taken from the Bafta lecture. Morgan also said Blair won’t admit he’s seen the Queen!

  • RogerBW

    In general, when analysing Blair, it has been safest to choose whichever option makes him look least like an honest or pleasant person. In this case I suspect he stole the line and hoped nobody would notice.

    There is a movement to re-shelve the Blair book in bookshops True Crime, though a dissenting tendency prefers Dark Fantasy.

  • Kate

    I wish Americans had even a tenth of the animosity towards our war criminal administrations that the British have towards their warmongering Prime Minister.

  • Ah Kate – much good it does us. We marched, petitioned and shouted that we didn’t want to go to war – Blair thought he knew better and hundreds of thousands of people paid with their lives. I’ll certainly be helping move his book into True Crime this weekend…

  • Kate

    Jo the Hat – oh, I understand, but still, it’s gratifying to see that people CARE enough to march, petition, and shout. In America, when it comes to politics, most people have the attention span of a fruit fry. Even now, people are already saying that Bush wasn’t so bad.

  • Jan Willem

    Hilarious story! It brings back memories.

    In university, I wrote a 100-page thesis about the curious phenomenon that fictionalization (tying up loose ends and rearranging history – aka lying) in autobiographies makes these more pleasurable to read. It also makes them more credible to the general reading public – and even to many academics – than more factual but less entertaining accounts. This is why fanciful writers about American expatriates in Paris in the twenties (who were my subject) such as Hemingway and Gertrude Stein have determined the general perception of this period. I concluded that autobiographies and novels are not wholly separate genres, but occupy various positions on a sliding scale between fact and fiction.

  • Lisa

    Maybe Blair’s grasp on reality is that thin…

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