Tony Blair's Secret Message

Slate's Culture Blog
Sept. 3 2010 11:34 AM

Tony Blair's Secret Message

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Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

Remember at the end of

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, when—spoiler alert!—the hero discovers a coded message in the pages of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang's memoir? As the hero flips through the book, he notices that the first words from each chapter form a sentence when arranged in order. Put them in a row, and tack on the short phrase that kicks off the final chapter, and you've got the skeleton in the prime minister's closet:

Lang's wife Ruth studying in '76 was recruited as a CIA agent in America by Professor Paul Emmett of Harvard University.

It's no secret that the character of Adam Lang was closely based on real-life former Prime Minister Tony Blair. And wouldn't you know it: Blair's own memoir— A Journey: My Political Life —has just been published. According to Michiko Kakutani's review in the New York Times , the book "sheds little light" on the man, who " remains a mystery " to the very end. But is the book really so opaque? Or did Blair, like his fictional counterpart, hide the juiciest details in code?

I've got a copy of the Prime Minister's memoir on my desk, and will now subject it to the same cryptographic analysis used by Ewan McGregor's character in The Ghost Writer. If we take the first word from each of the first 21 chapters, and then the first phrase of the final chapter, what do we get?

On ... the ...

So far, so good.

later ... the ...

Uh-oh. The rest is no less a disaster. Here's the fully decoded message:

On the later the Churchill you the the I the it as the the it the the the on those the term "the West."

What if we took the second word from each chapter, and assembled those?

2 journey that disadvantage returned was campaign awakening forces left 2001 is I weeks problem is 2005 schedule last the months term.

Could "campaign awakening forces left 2001" be a reference to al-Qaida sleeper cells? Or maybe Blair took greater pains than the fictional Lang to hide his secret message—perhaps it's buried in an anagram. Here's what you get when you take the "Churchill" phrase, above, and rearrange the letters:

Oh, the truth, coherence: I'll hit the hottest threesome, then the whitest athlete. They eat it. Huh.

Tony Blair, you old dog!