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Tony Blair wants to run Starmer’s government

Tony Blair speaks during the 'Future Of Britain' conference yesterday. Credit: Getty

July 10, 2024 - 1:00pm

If Britain had an unelected head of state, then it would surely be Tony Blair. After all, who else but a king would dole out advice every single day, on every single media cycle, to a new prime minister?

The accelerating nature of Blair’s “rare interventions” over the last five days is something to behold. On Sunday he suggested Starmer’s two-day old government should introduce digital ID cards. In that same piece, written for the Sunday Times, the former prime minister spoke, in pseudo-Maoist language, of how Starmer would have to shift from being the “Great Persuader” to the “Great CEO”. On Monday, the media caught wind of Blair’s minions having determined Starmer would have to increase taxes by £50 billion, and Tuesday saw the Tony Blair Institute hold its “Future of Britain” conference in London. Attendees included Cabinet ministers Pat McFadden and Wes Streeting. Starmer may be Labour’s kingpin today — but for the party’s Right, Blair will forever be capo dei capi.

The central theme of Tuesday’s event was artificial intelligence and the role it can play in reforming public services. If that wasn’t already clear enough, the TBI also published a report titled “The Potential Impact of AI on the Public Sector Workforce”. While not exactly riveting, parts of that document would make anyone sit up. Early on, one learns how “more than 40% of tasks performed by public-sector workers could be partly automated by a combination of AI-based software” and that AI could lead to “savings of £41 billion a year to the public-sector wage bill”. These are extraordinary conclusions and, given the resources available to Blair’s policy cookshop which has an annual turnover of over $120 million, one would presume this was the detailed analysis of a world-leading expert.

But you would be wrong to think that. Because the research behind the report’s findings — which says AI could lead to savings equivalent to 1.5% of GDP — was done by none other than ChatGPT4. That’s right: the TBI asked a machine learning tool how much of the public sector could be automated and how many public sector workers could be fired. In fairness to the report’s authors, this is made perfectly clear, with the use of ChatGPT laid out in the report’s methodology.

“To achieve these gains” the report went on, “the government will need to invest in AI technology [and] upgrade its data systems.” So expensive data systems and laying off workers, but all in the name of superior outcomes and taxpayer value (nobody mentioned the £12-billion IT cock up under Blair two decades ago).

At this point it is worth mentioning that Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, has already donated $100 million to the Blair Institute, and is on course to furnish it with another $270 million. Perhaps it is merely coincidental that Oracle recently purchased the US electronic health record company Cerner for almost $30 billion — with Ellison keen for it to become a world leader in digital health data.

And the fastest growing area of Oracle’s business? That would be Oracle Cloud, the company’s cloud computing service which offers servers, storage, applications and services through a global network of managed data centres. Which, as it happens, are precisely the kinds of products the British state would be spending billions on if Tuesday’s report were heeded. Indeed, just last month Oracle forecast double digit growth in 2025 off the back of — you guessed it — AI-powered cloud services.

In 2011 the “Campaign for Change” concluded that the various botched IT projects of New Labour weren’t driven by corruption, but instead by Blair’s default setting of tech boosterism. “Tony Blair was too easily lobbied by Bill Gates and other suppliers on how easy it would be to modernise the NHS using computers,” the campaign claimed at the time. And yet, bizarrely, with Blair doing exactly the same again, virtually nobody in the media wishes to remark on the parallels. They should, because Labour is in power once more — and Blair intends for his to be the most powerful think tank influencing Number 10, if it isn’t already.

With Blair, one can’t help but feel a sense of tragedy. Here is a restless man who always wishes to be at the centre of things. Yet the nature of democracy means power must flow from one person to another, from one generation to the next. While a figure such as Dominique de Villepin — the eagle-like French Foreign Minister during the Iraq War — is content to open an art gallery with his son, Blair is still intent on being the most important person in any room.

For all the talk of the Left causing Starmer problems, don’t be surprised if Blair and Peter Mandelson cause their fair share of headaches. They will happily — and publicly — tell the PM when they are right and the electorate is wrong. After all, if they make a bad call, it won’t be them getting the boot from Number 10.


Aaron Bastani is the co-founder of Novara Media, and the author of Fully Automated Luxury Communism. 

AaronBastani

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Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
11 days ago

Starmer: I’m in charge!
Blair: Do you feel in charge?
Starmer: I won my own large majority!
Blair: And this gives you power over me?!

rchrd 3007
rchrd 3007
11 days ago

Blair: You won your large parliamentary majority based on 33% of the electorate!

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
10 days ago
Reply to  rchrd 3007

No you didn’t win, the Tories lost there is a difference..

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
11 days ago

But you would be wrong to think that. Because the research behind the report’s findings — which says AI could lead to savings equivalent to 1.5% of GDP — was done by none other than ChatGPT4.

For some reason I had not considered that AI will make think tanks redundant.

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
11 days ago

We could cut to the chase. Ditch the sock puppet and re-install his satanic majesty..

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
10 days ago

We all know that Labour are about to bring in huge constitutional changes.

My suggestion, properly Blairite in spirit, and pertaining specifically to Tony Blair and perhaps one or two select others, is as follows:

– a new legislative chamber, which sits above the House of Commons and the House of Lords, with powers to override the decisions of both the other chambers, with no right of appeal.
– The new chamber should subsume the function of the Supreme Court (which was a Blair invention in any case), the OBR, and who the hell ever else they feel like at the time.
– Part of the new chamber would be a ‘super-regulator overseer’ which sits over all the OFxxx bodies. I suggest this be called F***OF.
– The new chamber I’m suggesting should be called, wait for it, The House of Overlords. In order to avoid confusion in the other two chambers, and in line with the conventional ‘the other place’ but with a view to downplaying it’s supreme executive power, I suggest it be referred to as ‘the nether place’.

What do you think?

Ash Sangamneheri
Ash Sangamneheri
10 days ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Err..EU ?

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 days ago

Tony Blair is only caring for his fourth term as Prime Minister (via a hand puppet minion who actually was elected) until he can ascend to the Presidency of the new enlarged EU (after reversing Brexit by bureaucratic means, no referendum required).
The long march through the institutions requires more institutions (see Labour manifesto) and mere persistence to prevail.
Unless the population decides it has had enough.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
10 days ago

Blair advises Starmer to wear a life-like Tony Blair face-mask at all public outings henceforth to fill the electorate with a sense of confidence in the new leadership’s harmony with progressive tech outcomes, liberal progress and globalization

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
10 days ago

My guess is that Gordon Brown, now a regular Guardian columnist, is far more likely to have the ear of Keir Starmer. No doubt that will be very annoying for poor old Tony and is causing all these “rare interventions”.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
10 days ago

The jobs AI should take over is that of politicians, hedge fund managers, central bankers etc. A bit of rhetorical hallucination, blindly following wrong economic dogma’s and gambling, this it can probably do better and cheaper than any human.
On a more serious note, Western countries have to finally understand that you cannot run a civilization entirely on financial manipulation and virtually technology while importing everything else. AI and big tech seem to be half innovations and half a financial schemes. Interesting but certainly not some magic bullet. From the .com bubble and 2008 we should have learned how fragile the purely financialized economy is but we only made it worse. It doesn’t make sense that you automate public services if you have to support and even bail out all those crony private entities who own your state assets and public services – especially if you are unable to tax those private entities.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 days ago

The way in which Blair pops up reminds me of Krampus. At least Krampus only turns up once a year to terrify you, Blair seems to be everywhere, all the time.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago

Only as man as technically illiterate as Tony Blair could so naively believe the assumptions about what technology could deliver.
Add in the fact that these people don’t know the difference between theory (what’s possible) and practice (what’s achievable) when it comes to anything to do with technology.
We’ve all lived through NHS “book and choose” fiasco Blair and co dreamt up. They never learn.
As for the digital ID stuff. If we have to have this and trade-off personal freedom, I’d like to see some concrete benefits. And yes, that means actually acting on the information when the authorities discover fraud and abuse. Rather than just selective harrassment of the middle classes.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
10 days ago

Its all like Biden and Obama here now isn’t it…

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
10 days ago

‘Tony Blair is NOT the messiah he’s just a very naughty boy!’

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
10 days ago

If Britain had an unelected head of state
Britain does have an unelected head of state. His name is Charles III. The prime minister is head of government.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago

Another IT system that came in 1999 was called Horizon, and no-one dared say that it was a technical disaster. I think we have to thank the Blair government for that one, too.

N Forster
N Forster
10 days ago

Tell you what, I don’t know what has happened to Aaron, but he is in danger of making sense on a consistent basis. I hope he holds Labour to account as the MSM clearly don’t intend to.

Martin M
Martin M
10 days ago

He lost me with “digital ID cards”.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 days ago

I always thought from his pinched expression that someone must have their hand up Stammer’s a**e