Stephen Fry caught out Tony Blair back in 1998

Jan 30, 2012

Fry 'fell out of love' with Blair when the PM tweaked a joke he had written for a speech

STEPHEN FRY has related an anecdote that pins a telling, and rather embarrassing, fabrication on former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

When Blair first swept to power, Fry was one of the great many people cheering for the charismatic young leader, he tells Simon Kelner in The Independent. So much so that he would contribute to Blair’s speeches from time to time.

In 1998, Fry was asked to add some colour to a speech that Blair was to deliver to the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool. The comedian suggested inserting a joke he had written, based around the story that Philip of Macedon had a man whose job it was to hit him on his head with a bladder on a stick - the idea being that it would keep the king's ego in check.

The punchline? Blair had no need of a man with a bladder because he had John Prescott.

Fry is quite certain that when he gave Blair's team this joke, the line ran like so: "It is said that Philip of Macedonia..."

But when Fry watched the speech, the line had been slightly tweaked in Blair's favour. "There I was, at home in Norfolk," he says, "watching the leader's speech on BBC2 and Blair says this: 'A book I was reading recently told me about Phillip of Macedonia...' It was then that I fell out of love with Blair."

While it’s not news that Blair and his team were skilled in the art of spin, Kelner is unable to conceal his delight at finally having something concrete to pin on Teflon Tony.

"So many of the dubious tales about politicians turn out to be legendary: Blair never actually said he was a regular on the terraces at Newcastle United, and Peter Mandelson didn't really think his portion of mushy peas was guacamole in a Hartlepool chip shop. So what a thrill to get one straight from the horse's mouth," he concludes.

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I am no fan of Blair, but we have to consider that the speech was tweaked not by him, and without his knowledge, by one of his team.