Tony Blair, the Leader, and My Thoughts on The London Bombings

I first met Tony Blair seven years ago, at the beginning of 1998. I remember well my sense of excitement as I headed to the site, Hotel New Otani, carrying an invitation that had been delivered by the British Embassy to meet with Prime Minister Tony Blair over breakfast. (Refer to the column; "Breakfast Gathering with Tony Blair"

An anecdote told by Mr. Hirotaro Higuchi (former chairman of Asahi Breweries, Ltd.) had aroused my interest in Mr. Blair about two years after he was inaugurated as Prime Minister. According to Mr. Higuchi, Tony Blair had come to Japan, before becoming Prime Minister, when he was the head of the opposition Labour Party, and had asked to meet with Mr. Higuchi. It was during the New Year holiday season and Mr. Higuchi did not really want to be tied up with official business, but he was then serving as the chairman of the Nippon Keidanren's (Japan Business Federation) Committee on Europe, and so, with some reluctance, he accommodated the request. The man who came to meet him was the young head of the opposition, Tony Blair.

As opposition leader, Mr. Blair had only one reason for meeting Mr. Higuchi. He said to Mr. Higuchi with deep conviction: "I will soon become Prime Minister of the U.K. And I don't want you to worry about the Labour Party taking power. Once I become Prime Minister, there will be no dramatic changes in policy, and I hope that Japan will continue to invest in U.K." Mr. Higuchi told me that he had been genuinely impressed by Mr. Blair, and so I was also intrigued.

Tony Blair was my age—43—when he became Prime Minister. After attending the breakfast meeting with him seven years ago, I did not see him again in person until the Davos forum this year. And even then, the closest I got was to hear the end of his speech. Compared to my earlier encounter, Mr. Blair had gained an even greater presence.

Tony Blair had been a keynote speaker on the first day of the Davos forum, and on the second day he participated in a panel discussion with musician Bono and Microsoft's Bill Gates on eradicating poverty in Africa. (Please refer to Column; The 12 Pressing Problems at Davos) (Japanese)

I have always felt nothing but sheer admiration for Tony Blair's communication skills. At Davos, I had happened to run into his speechwriter, who informed me that Mr. Blair writes his own speeches for important events. And he practices them over and over again. The speechwriter said he had probably polished up this compelling speech in the helicopter on the way to Davos from London. So these communication skills are the fruits of his efforts.

Furthermore, Tony Blair fascinates people with his combination of unique charm and wit. These communication skills were particularly evident when he was campaigning for London's bid to host the Olympics. He traveled all the way to Singapore to meet with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and thanks to his efforts, London beat out the favorite, Paris, and was awarded the 2012 Olympics. I hate to say this, but I suspect that even if the other leaders had managed to make their appeals through their interpreters, no one would have felt as moved.

Without a doubt, being able to communicate in English is vital on the international stage. Tony Blair is also competent in French, and that, beyond his advantage of having English as his native tongue, gives him a genuine international sensitivity.

This year, with the U.K. sponsoring the summit and holding the presidency of the EU, Tony Blair issued a resounding declaration at the Davos forum under the dual themes of eradicating poverty and preventing global warming.

And these two themes would to be at the center of debate at the following G8 summit. However, just as it was all getting underway, the terrorist bombings occurred in London. Tony Blair quickly left the venue and headed straight for the scene of the tragedy in London. The discussions at the summit had been trumped by an act of terrorism. This was a dreadful shame.

Based on my memories of him at the breakfast meeting and having heard his passionate speech at the Davos forum, I think he is someone I would really like to see helping to pull the planet in the right direction as a leader. We are now in an age in which world leaders must have a conviction to lead the world. They will stop being recognized as world leaders if they are only concerned with domestic problems and the profit and loss of their own nations.

I really hope that Japan too can turn out dynamic politicians with deep convictions and beliefs. I get the feeling that Prime Minister Koizumi is a remarkably better leader than his predecessors; he doesn't flinch at the challenge of reform and always says things in his own words, something that has earned the respect of leaders in other countries.

We, the people, put these leaders in place. I believe the people need to speak out more. I think it's a shame that young people in their 20s and 30s do not vote. We need young people to stand up, and to work together to stop the conservative faction of the LDP from hampering reform efforts. I think this ferment of consciousness will generate the energy to turn out good leaders from Japan.

From now on, we might be entering time when we send out our voices through blogs.

July 9, 2005
Our prayers are with the victims of the London bombings.
Yoshito Hori

Mr. Yoshito Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2003, GLOBIS started its original MBA program which, in 2006, received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education and gained “university” status. GLOBIS started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and a full-time MBA program in English in 2012.

A Harvard MBA graduate and former Sumitomo Corporation employee, Mr. Hori founded the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Japan Chapter in 1995 and became the first board member from Asia in charge of Asia Pacific region in 1996. He also served on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee and Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership, as well as the Harvard Business School Alumni Board from 2005 to 2008. Currently, Mr. Hori is a board member of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and serves as co-chair of WEF’s Global Growth Companies.

In 2008, he launched the G1 Summit – a Japanese version of the WEF’s annual Davos forum. This led to the foundation of G1 Summit Institute in 2013, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

Just days after a huge earthquake struck northeast Japan in March 2011, Mr. Hori launched Project KIBOW to support the rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas. The following year Project KIBOW was incorporated as the KIBOW Foundation, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

An avid enthusiast of the Japanese game Go since age 40, Mr. Hori has been Director of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) since June 2013.

Since October 2013, Mr. Hori has hosted a weekly TV program in Japan called Nippon Mirai Kaigi (Japan Future Conference). He has authored several books including Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies, Six Dimensions of Life, and My Personal Mission Statement.

Mr. Hori received his BS in Engineering from Kyoto University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five sons.

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