Exclusive: Why didn’t Brown bring down Blair until September 2006?
The Slogger pounces on a piece of murky illogic in the Brown/Blair succession story
The Sequence of events
Following the 2005 General Election, New Labour is desperately short of money. The Party is £26.2 million in debt, and Treasurer Jack Dromey is desperately worried. He becomes even more worried when told that a further £13M of debt has been dissolved thanks to illegal donations.
As a Brown supporter, in March 2006 he goes on TV without warning and says it’s outrageous….without permission, and clearly to stab Blair. Essentially, he points the finger at the Blair entourage of fundraisers.
We can assume that Brown has pushed Dromey towards this act of brazen politicking. (Tony Blair did).
Gordon expects this to be enough to force Blair out. But the PM rides it out: he decides the Chancellor has nothing but innuendo. In a rage, Gordon screams at the PM “I’ll bring you down with sleaze!”
But he doesn’t. This is a key point: it means that, effectively, Blair did not go in order to avoid facing donation-sleaze charges.
Chancellor Gordon Brown continues in pursuit of his ambition to oust the PM. Blair has on the one hand given his word long ago to Gordon that he will hand over power after two terms as PM; but on the other, Tony has told the media he will see out three terms. This is not unusual behaviour for Tony Blair: were human beings to have further upper-body limbs, there would be other hands all being promised exclusively to various interest groups.
As August progresses, Brown the self-proclaimed Greatest Ever Chancellor becomes more demanding: how is Operation Cake (the code-name for handover) proceeding, he keeps asking. The answers are vague. There are confrontations with the Prime Minister.
But a month later on September 1st, Blair is at an EU conference, refusing to discuss departure dates, making long-term summit plans – and still showing no signs of going. Government PPS Mahmoud resigns and junior defence minister Tom Watson does the same: both are doing so at Brown’s behest, to put further pressure on Blair.
Then, something happens. Nobody is really sure what, but it happens. Within days, Brown is in good form at a Party Conference planning meeting. Others are dismayed at what new Opposition Leader David Cameron is calling ‘a Government in meltdown’. But Brown smiles, asserting calmly, “Don’t worry – it won’t last long”.
A brooding pessimist by nature, here we are in early September with the Chancellor facing a seemingly immovable rival on the Throne. But he says only “it won’t last long”.
On September 6th, author Peter Watt finds Blair looking ‘old, grey and drained….it was obvious he was shell-shocked’.
The next day – to a staggered public – Prime Minister Tony Blair confirms that he is to stand down within twelve months. This will, he says, be his last Party Conference. more
Monday, April 18, 2011
A Brief History of Tony Blair's Skeletons: Introduction
Or part one if you will, but for no other reason than the follow up is billed as part two. Which I have to say is a tad more entertaining.