At Auckland Koru Club on the way back down to Wellington after going out to Eden Park for a lunch with former UK PM Tony Blair.
Had a very brief chat to him before the lunch, mainly about a mutual friend who used to be his children’s nanny.
Blair’s presentation wasn’t stunning – I suspect he is a bit jet lagged, but the content was excellent. I swear the man is more Tory than me. What I mean is that he gave one of the best repudiations of Keynesian economics around, explained why a fiscal stimulus in response to the financial crisis doesn’t mean one should go back the days of big Government.
He spoke about how the need for reform in public services is continual, and quipped that if Clement Atlee was alive today, the only part of society he would still feel comfortable in would be the public service, as so little had changed since the 1950s.
Talked about Iraq and Afghanistan. He thinks both will still end up better off than if there had been no intervention, however is very worried about the meddling and influence of Iran.
I asked him a question on which of the five or six Opposition Leaders he had seen off, did he respect the most and why. I quipped that he could include Gordon Brown in the answer to that question, which he seemed to find amusing.
Someone at our table (the Telecom table), asked whether he thought David Miliband should have challenged Gordon Brown for the leadership, and would the election result have been different. Blair hesitated about answering this, and asked if any journalists were in the room. It was hilarious to observe as in unison all the journalists in the room yelled out “no”, which meant Blair went on to answer. He was a master though of re-writing questions, so the answer he gave was that if Labour had remained New Labour, he thinks they had the potential to get a different result.
Blair also had interesting observations on the Middle East and the Arab Spring. He has a belief that so called western values of democracy and freedom are in fact universal values, and we are seeing this take place through the uprisings.
The company which was the major sponsor of the lunch, is Visy. They are one of the world’s largest paper recycling and packing companies and believe that responding to climate change is a business opportunity, not a cost. their Chairman spoke also to the lunch. Interestingly not a single question to Blair was on climate change though.