Tony Blair Considered Making Millennium Dome a Tribute to Diana, Newspapers Reveal | National Archives


Tony Blair’s government briefly considered turning the Millennium Dome into a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, in the aftermath of her death, as previously classified documents reveal the Greenwich project was in danger of being scrapped more than two years before. its opening.

High-ranking ministers had expressed strong objections to the unpopular Millennium Exhibition, inherited from the previous Conservative government, on cost grounds and fears it would not be ready on time.

One suggestion to remodel and save it, put forward by Sam Chisholm, president of the New Millennium Experience Company, was a French-style “big project” at the site, including hosting a children’s hospital, charities and private residences called “The Princess Diana Center”, documents published by the National Archives show.

“In a way, it’s a big extension of the idea brought up by Leader Sun. Sam really wanted me to bring it to your immediate attention, ”Alastair Campbell, Blair’s press secretary, wrote to the Prime Minister two days after Diana’s death.

Ideas passed on to Blair included an exhibit honoring Diana’s life and work modeled on the JFK Museum in Boston, as part of a similar project to “L’Arche, Center Pompidou, etc.” With an eternal flame to Diana on the meridian line in Greenwich, subject to agreement with her family and charities.

Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell described it to Blair as a project that “would certainly respond to the mood of the public and get us off the hook of existing plans in Greenwich.” But, Powell continued, there were problems. It could not be justified in terms of demand for pediatric services in London, would threaten the viability of Great Ormond Street Hospital and could not be built in time. The idea did not materialize.

Peter Mandelson, minister without portfolio, who was in charge and ultimately delivered the Dome project, had previously warned Blair that he would face “formidable opposition” if he chose to go ahead with the Millennium Project. Experience.

Among those strongly opposed to a Millennium Exhibition in June 1997 were Gordon Brown, Chancellor Alastair Darling, Chief Treasury Secretary David Blunkett, Education Secretary, Gavin Strang, Transportation Secretary, and Chris Smith, the secretary of culture, whose tenure included the dome.

A note from Alex Allan, Blair’s private secretary, to Powell, suggesting that Mandelson could take over the Dome project, wrote: “It would not be easy for Chris Smith to take the initiative to move the project forward. He is known to have favored its disposal. So his heart may not be fully behind to revitalize it. And the management of the decision by the press would not be easy for him. “

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