Did Tony Blair really have a drink problem?
What with Gordon Brown breathing down his neck, the absence of weapons of mass destruction and John Prescott as his deputy prime minister, it’s perhaps not surprising Tony Blair hit the bottle as soon as the sun was over the yardarm.
In his autobiography A Journey, Blair admits relying on alcohol to unwind from prime-ministerial responsibilities but insists his intake was, “not excessively excessive”. Perhaps he’s comparing himself with Winston Churchill, who reputedly drank two or three scotches, half a bottle of champagne and a few brandies each evening?
Blair’s daily intake is certainly more middle class and middle aged. A “stiff whisky or G and T before dinner, couple of glasses of wine or even half a bottle with it,” he says. Perhaps he wasn’t familiar with his government’s recommended daily limit – no more than three to four units for a man (and two to three for a woman). I totted up Blair’s units with the chief executive of Alcohol Concern, Don Shenker. Half a bottle of wine is around five units, and a pub measure of whisky is one unit – Blair’s is likely to be more than that, but he gets the benefit of the doubt. It still comes to six units – two more than a prime minister should be necking. However, it makes him a man of the people – one-in-three men and one-in-five women drink above the suggested limits.
“It puts him in the bracket of higher risk for health problems such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis and some cancers,” says Shenker. It’s also a level of drinking that can cause problems (such as rows) with family, friends and work colleagues. The NHS’s Clinical Knowledge Service says that four to six units of alcohol can make you more “reckless and uninhibited” in your decision-making.
Blair’s alcohol confession comes with hospital admissions due to alcohol standing at almost a million a year. One of the local authorities with the highest levels? His old stomping ground of Islington.