Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

Blair-Brown Rivalry Discussed by Old Hands


Much has been written about the rivalry between Blair and his Chancellor- not least a full length book by James Naughtie- so I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised to hear what for me was final confirmation that they really do hate each other. Maybe I was naive enough to believe that staged chumminess during the last election campaign- you remember the fraternal chat, the smiles and the shared ice-creams?- had some basis in fact. Also I'm aware that journalists thrive on stories about splits and tiffs and so treated a large number of those stories with justified scepticism.

But this morning, listening to Between Ourselves, my few remaining doubts disappeared. On the programme were the immensely experienced and wise journalists, Elinor Goodman, former political editor Channel Four and Trevor Kavanagh, former political editor The Sun (and always the best thing in it to my mind). At the end of much talk about the exhausting mechanics of being a constantly on-call senior news media person they alighted on the subject of the relationship between Brown and Blair. Goodman reported th experience of her husband who worked an economic adviser to the PM. According to him Brown was extraordinarily secretive about the economy of the country his colleague led, keeping mum about the budget until the very last minute. Kavanagh chipped in with the observation that when writing notes on the Front Bench, he used to shield it with his hand, even when the person sitting next to him was David Blunkett.

They both agreed Brown acquired the politically astute habit of disappearing from view when the going got tough, leaving Blair to carry the can unassisted. [It seems he's been doing that all August until we realize he's currently on paternity leave.] Kavanagh opined Brown would prove a dour authoritarian prime minister, stamping down on any minor transgression from the government line. And what he would never, ever tolerate for a second would be a colleague who regularly took issue with the PM and treated his department as the equivalent of an autonomous state. In other words he'd never allow another..er..Gordon Brown in his Cabinet. Kavanagh predicted, for good measure, that after a few weeks or months of Brown as PM, Labour MPs would be clamouring for Blair's return.

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