Tony Blair was the British Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. The performance of his government in the domestic sphere throughout his two terms is considered one of the best in the country's history. In this, the first of a new series for New African magazine, Blair digs deep into his vast experience to provide tips on effective governance to African Heads of State.
It is an irony of political leadership that you often start at your most popular but least capable; and end at your most capable but least popular. Because all leaders learn on the job.
I did and therefore, now with my Institute, try to shorten the ascent up the learning curve for today's leaders.
I came into the UK government in 1997 full of enthusiasm and optimism with a significant mandate from the people and a majority in Parliament.
But I swiftly found that the skill set that brought me to power was largely redundant when it came to governing. The one was about persuasion; the other was about 'getting things done'.
Over time, I realised that the core challenge was implementation--turning the great vision into the practical reality.
And I found that even the sophisticated UK system was excellent at managing the status quo but poor at changing it.
It was all agonisingly slow, replete with vested interests and with incentives that drove the system to masking problems rather than solving them.
So, in my second term, with the experience of my first, I created entirely new structures which treated the business of government like any other business.
I created the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit (PMDU), the first of its kind. It was critical in driving the significant reforms my government achieved in education, health, crime reduction and elsewhere. It also enabled us to embed and incentivise an evidence-based culture across government.
We re-organised the rest of the centre to make it strong, focused and capable--with specific units around policy, long and short term, strategy, and communications; brought in new personnel and made sure my schedule fitted the priorities of the government.
This last point was vital. The challenge of government is to keep focus on the changes you want to make, whilst dealing with the myriad of events, crises and 'scandals' that you don't want but are obliged to deal with.
When I left office, and because of the focus we had had on Africa and our creation of the Department for International Development (DfID), I set up the Africa Governance Initiative...