Tony Blair's speech in Sedgefield, on 5th March, 2004, was seen by most people as an attempt to justify the Iraq war. But it contained one statement which amounts to the greatest change in the British Unwritten Constitution since the establishment of the British Monarchy. It is the statement relating to the role of the British Prime Minister in the British Constitutional Framework.
The passage in question is the end of the last paragraph of his speech, as follows:
“In the end, believe your political leaders or not, as you will. But do so, at least having understood their minds.”
Tony Blair sees himself as a “political leader”, whom the public should follow unquestioningly — on trust.
It is not the first time Tony Blair asks the public to trust him. And it is not the first time that he refers to himself as a leader. But, in the context of his speech, this sentence sums up Tony Blair's view of his own role in the British Government, and of the Role of the British Prime Minister in the British Constitutional Framework.
To understand this issue we need to overview the Constitutional Role of the British Prime Minister, as it existed up to the “Blair Putsch”.
England, which later became the British Empire by conquering much of the world, and then slimmed down to the present United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, began its constitutional existence as an absolute monarchy.
In an absolute monarchy, the Monarch is the source and symbol of all the Power of the State. He rules his Kingdom in the name of God and responsible to God alone. In England (and later) Britain, God and his will, were defined and interpreted by the Church of England, which could be seen as the “moral” wing of the British Monarchy.
Later, the British Monarchy transferred most of the administration of the state to appointed “civil servants” (the Whitehall) and elected “civil servants” (Westminster). And the Monarchy itself became represented by the abstraction of “the Crown”, as distinct from the physical person of the Monarch.
Thus the constitutional model became as follows:
This explains the presence of the word “crown” in the name of “The Crown Prosecution Service” — a Civil Service department, which Tony Blair proposes to rename as “The Prosecution Service”.
As we see, there is no concept of “politics” in this model. Politics was something that happened at the time of the elections. But once the elections were over, the politicians elected to government stopped being politicians, and became “Elected Servants of the Crown”. Once the elections were over, “politics” was left to the opposition, it was not part of the government.
We also see there is no concept of “leader” in this constitutional framework at all. What we have is the Crown, the Subjects of the Kingdom, and their elected or appointed “servants”. But again there is “the Leader of the Opposition”, whose role is to ask the Prime Minister awkward questions at Prime Minister's Question Time, and thus keeping happy those who did not like the government's policies.
So where does the constitutional model of “the leader and the people” come from?
The model of “the leader and the people”, or “the leader and the masses” was popular in the first half of the 20th century in Continental Europe. The title of Adolf Hitler was Fuehrer und Reichskanzler, or in English, “Leader and Chancellor of the Commonwealth”. Joseph Stalin was addressed as vozhd — “The Leader”. Benito Mussolini was known as il Duce — “The Leader”.
In Germany the “fuehrer principle” presumed that a fuehrer (leader) has the right to command and the people (masses) the duty to obey. It implied unconditional, unquestioning trust of the people in “their leader” — Just as Tony Blair would like it to be.
The doctrine of “The Leaders and the Masses” is also part of the Marxist doctrine of “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. And again it implies unquestioning and unconditional trust of the masses in their leaders.
To maintain the trust of the masses in their leaders, the leaders relied on promoting the fear and hatred of an “enemy”. To justify their powers, they spun ideologies and often wrote books. Their source of inspiration was “History”, and all their actions and speeches were invariably “historical”. And Tony Blair has stated clearly that he expects to be judged by none but History.
Although it is widely believed that these “leaders” were “undemocratic”, in fact, they enjoyed very wide and truly enthusiastic popular support in their countries, at least throughout most of time they were in power, and in that sense were “popular” and “democratic”.
It is obvious that Tony Blair does not see himself as a Servant of the Crown, as all his predecessors saw themselves. His doctrine of government is that of “the Leader and the Masses”. And this means that while the British Media and the Public were preoccupied with the reasons for the Iraq War, and the “regime‐change” in Iraq, a major constitutional change has taken place in Britain itself. From a Parliamentary Monarchy Britain has turned into a “Leader‐and‐Masses Commonwealth”, modeled on the German Reich.
This is something Sir Oswald Mosley wanted to do still in the 1930's, but had failed to get enough support. But, then he did not have the 9/11. Has Tony Blair succeeded where Sir Oswald failed?