The Which Blair Project


IT HELPED nurture one of the most successful and controversial political leaders of recent times. But just months after Tony Blair left office, Fettes College has produced a savage satire about its most famous old boy.

The prestigious private school has staged a razor-sharp satire on the Blair years - written by a senior teacher and performed by pupils - in which the former Prime Minister is portrayed as an effete, air guitar-playing fop who plots his way to the position of head boy and then reneges on a pledge to hand over to his nearest rival.

The Which Blair Project really goes for the jugular with a plotline in which the former premier leads an invasion of a neighbouring private school, spuriously claiming it possesses weapons of mass destruction capable of destroying the world in 40 minutes.

Blair is not the only figure lampooned in the show: Gordon Brown is portrayed as an embittered geek whose only pleasure in life comes from calculating the tuckshop accounts and plotting to overthrow Blair; George Bush appears as a crass American pupil with learning difficulties; and David Cameron and Boris Johnson make cameo appearances as hash-smoking toffs.

The play was written by David McDowell, who teaches history and politics at Fettes, known as the "Eton of the north".

His script begins with an adult Blair - a pupil from 1966-71 - taking to the stage flashing his trademark grin before talking directly to the audience.

He says: "Hi. I'm Tony Blair. You may know me from television spectaculars such as Princess Diana's funeral, the G8 Summit, peace in Northern Ireland and the Nato bombing of Serbia. I particularly enjoyed that one. The governments of Europe, America and Russia thought I'd done such a good job with everything else that they've sent me here to the Middle East to bring peace."

The action cuts to scenes of bombing and violence with hooded terrorists running on to the stage with "explosive devices" strapped to their backs.

Seemingly oblivious to the chaos around him Blair then takes a nostalgic look back to his youth. "In my schooldays I met the man who wanted to be my nemesis. He was Gordon Brown and I think you should get an insight into his boring, resolutely uncool schooldays."

Blair, shown as long-haired Led Zeppelin fan, and Brown, portrayed as a humourless swot, attempt to thrash out a deal.

In a scene that parodies the fabled Granita restaurant deal of 1994 Blair, states: "If I become head of school, then after a half a year I'll stand down and you can replace me." When Brown reacts with scepticism his rival replies: "I'm a pretty straight kind of a guy, Gordon. Everybody trusts me."

Blair and Brown are then captured by one Tommy Sheridan, the tangerine-skinned leader of the "People's Revolutionary Buckfast Commandos", who is bent on overthrowing Fettes. Sheridan is aided by Eton pupils 'Dave' Cameron and his floppy-haired buffoon of a sidekick, Boris, who ridicules the size of Fettes' trees, saying: "Back at Eton we've got a room full of cannabis plants that are bigger than that."

The plot is eventually foiled and Blair is rescued by his new friend George Bush, who tells him, somewhat ominously, that he will have to repay the favour one day.

Blair reflects on his triumph, telling the audience: "In retrospect, I suppose that my suggestion that I ride into Founder's Day on the donkey like Jesus may have struck the headmaster as a bit over the top.

"I had a really good year as head boy. I built a giant tent for people to, er, do stuff in.

"I led an invasion of Merchi [Merchiston Castle School] on the grounds that they might have a giant laser ready to blow up the world in 40 minutes."

He concludes: "I kept my promise to Gordon and stepped down, albeit it was the day before leavers' ball."

The drama was performed recently by members of Kimmerghame House, where Blair lived when he first arrived at the school.

McDowell said he had no regrets about penning the controversial play.In a reference to the tradition of putting on safer, established drama, he said: "We could have done what the other houses did and taken a mature and responsible approach.

"But we thought it would much more fun to go for a succession of cheap gags. The play was mischievous rather than malicious and the punters really seemed to enjoy it.

"It was a lot of fun and I'm sure there is nothing in the play that the headmaster will get upset about."

Despite subjecting the former pupil to ridicule, McDowell hopes Blair will take it in good humour.

"We are really keen to invite Tony to come back to the school to speak to members of our politics society. I'm sure he would see the funny side of the play."

Last year the school paid a far more traditional honour to Blair by unveiling a bronze bust of the then PM, which is believed to have cost £15,000

At the time Fettes headmaster Michael Spens said: "Regardless of the decisions he had made, Blair was elected Prime Minister of this country and that is no mean feat. He is a Fettes success story."

Blair pressure

Pressure was last night mounting on Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair, above, after a lawyer representing the mother of Stephen Lawrence called for an inquiry into last week's release of details of fresh progress in the murder case.

Barrister Michael Mansfield QC said he believed it possible that the news of apparent forensic breakthroughs was released to coincide with and eclipse the publication of a report into the police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Stephen's mother, Doreen, was "dismayed and angered" by press reports, which could jeopardise the investigation into her son's murder in 1993.

Hard to Blair

The young rock'n'roll-loving Blair gained a reputation as a rebel during his time at Fettes between 1966 and 1971.

The future PM wore his hair long, albeit inside the back of his collar, and is remembered for being a troublesome youth.

Bob Roberts, a former master, described him as "the most difficult boy I ever had to deal with... Blair had a great gift for being able to push the rules to the limit without actually crossing the line."

John Rentoul, author of the 2001 book Tony Blair: Prime Minister, said: "All the teachers I spoke to when researching the book said he was a complete pain in the backside, and they were very glad to see the back of him."

Good for Fettes


Book Reviewer
Shouldn't the school be caled 'Effettes'?

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