Brilliant! I.M. on A.C. on C.B., J.P. and the terrible TB/GBs

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    30th May 2010

    Excerpt: May 2nd 1997 – ‘Today was all go – excited aides rushing about as we put the finishing touches to the cabinet TB, me and big JP (Jonathan Powell) worked out on election night. Still, no sooner has the front door of Number 10 closed and GB was on the phone. He is concerned that Tony hasn’t indicated yet when he plans to step down.’

  • By Iain Martin at the WSJ

    The former spindoctor to Tony Blair (TB to his friends) is publishing the unexpurgated edition of the diaries which lift the lid on the New Labour project. The Guardian has bought up the extracts and it’s shocking stuff. Apparently, and I know you’re going to find this hard to believe, Gordon Brown (GB) was frequently grumpy and uncooperative. JP (John Prescott) was prone to titanic rages and Peter Mandelson (not PM, only room for one PM who was obviously TB) liked to storm out of meetings (in one case having to return for his jacket). A lot of initials are involved.
    But now I can reveal that Campbell has actually held back some crucial diary entries that were too explosive for publication. I’ve managed to get my hands on a few(*).

    September 29th 1994. Tony Blair’s first party conference has leader has gone well. But not everyone is happy…
    Round to Tony’s on Saturday morning before taking the kids to football. TB is worried and I find him pacing up and down in the kitchen in his stone-washed Levi 501s with matching denim shirt. He’s had GB on the phone and it didn’t go well. GB says that TB didn’t tell him or JP that he was going to scrap Clause 4 in his speech to conference. TB says that’s not true; that he did tell him beforehand but GB wasn’t listening. GB says that’s just typical; that if TB is going to tell him something important he should send Sue a memo indicating that he has something important to say and would like a proper appointment. That, said GB, is how to build real trust between colleagues. I try to calm him down: “Calm down,” I say. “Honestly, what a dreadful bunch of guys, Alastair. What are they going to be like if we win and get into power?”

    February 4th 1996. Labour is miles ahead in the polls. A return to power looks certain. But not everyone is happy…
    A meeting in TB’s Commons office. Peter says he’s had enough. GB is taking out all of his anger over the “betrayal” by TB on him. He’s can’t go on, it’s either GB RIP or Peter will tell TB he’s walking. JP tells him that’s OTT, although I do wonder whether Peter hasn’t got a point. Peter then gets quite upset and says he knows he can be a “silly sausage” but it’s just because he cares so much. Give me strength.

    October 25th 1996. TB is increasingly nervous that GB will never be reconciled to the reality that he is the leader, even if we are in government for ten years. Nonsense, I tell him, nobody could be that bitter and twisted.
    JP comes to see me after speaking to TB. He’s in a foul mood. It’s GB, again. “He’s an obstacle course to penultimate victory.” JP offers to arrange a summit with TB and GB, to “broker the ice” ASAP. I tell him that we’ll have to do it on the QT.

    May 2nd 1997. Labour has won a landslide election victory and Tony Blair walks up Downing Street as the new Prime Minister. But not everyone is happy…
    The pictures look superb on the TV. TB and the kids, and even Cherie. Ahead of it she had been particularly concerned about her hair, which I’m told has always taken a lot of work. Fiona (Millar, my formidable partner) tries to calm her down: “It’s fine, honestly,” Fiona tells Cherie. “We have straighteners. But then you’re going to have to think about growing out your fringe. This is 1997, you’re a modern woman. Nobody has a fringe any more.” This sends Cherie into a tearful rage: “I don’t know about this stuff… about fringes, and straighteners. I’ve been too busy being very successful. It’s ok for you Fiona.” Fiona and I exchange looks. Today was all go – excited aides rushing about as we put the finishing touches to the cabinet TB, me and big JP (Jonathan Powell) worked out on election night. Still, no sooner has the front door of Number 10 closed and GB was on the phone. He is concerned that Tony hasn’t indicated yet when he plans to step down.

    May 30th 1997. The new government is settling in. But not everyone is happy…
    JP shows up in my office. Can he talk to me about GB? Yes, I sigh, but he’s going to have to be PDQ as I have to go talk to TB about the FA, NATO and the BBC.

    June 10th 1997. There is widespread public approval of the government. Opinion polls indicate it is massively popular. But not everyone is happy…
    TB sends me over to the Treasury to talk to Charlie (Whelan) and EB and EM, the two Eds (Balls and Miliband). GB won’t talk to him about the looming budget or, indeed, the economy. Can I go see his SPADs and discover what I can find out? I promise to try. EM listens politely whilst I ask some basic questions, but EB is scribbling a drawing of what looks like a machine gun and whispering to Charlie throughout. I try to engage EB’s attention and encourage him to involve himself properly in the meeting: “You, Balls. You speccy two-faced posh paper scribbler turned pasty-faced policy wonk. Show some respect.” My efforts at diplomacy are in vain. Charlie says I am “bang out of order” and Gordon isn’t very happy with my comments. How do they know he isn’t very happy? Is Gordon next door listening in to this conversation? “Might be.” EM cuts off Charlie and says that what he meant to say was that they “will get back to us in the fullness of time and will share the details of the up-coming budget when it is appropriate to do so.” That means on budget day. By the time I get back to Number 10 GB has been on the phone to TB complaining. Did I really have to be quite so aggressive? I tell TB not to be soft. After a long pause he says, with a note of approval and wonder in his voice: “Did you really call Balls that name?”

    November 23rd 1998. There are whispers that Peter Mandelson is in trouble. Still, not everyone is happy…
    Peter is depressed, I go round to visit him in Notting Hill. GB’s people are really out to get him this time. He thinks they know something about his house and his mortgage. “What’s it all for Alastair? What’s the point? I could be happy without all of this, without all the baubles, the pointless trappings of power. I could be happy with much simpler pleasures, connecting with nature and the land. On a farm, say, just a few hundred acres, a nice little manor house, some good pieces of Georgian furniture, a few half decent paintings and me. Away from all this,” he says gesturing in the direction of his £7,500 custom made leather and steel armchair. I do worry about Peter sometimes.

    November 28th 2000. Feeling quite happy, actually…
    Jack Straw comes to see me. He says it’s a bit delicate but he really needs my help. Can’t promise, but I say I’ll see what I can do. “The thing is Alastair. I’m not known by my initials. It’s always Jack Straw, or Jack. Never JS. You know better anyone that it’s all about initials in New Labour. All the people who are really in the loop, who are really at the very top get called by their initials.” That’s not true, I tell him. Peter is never known as PM. “But you know that’s only because it would lead to confusion with TB, who is also the PM.” What does he want me to do? Could I start dropping in JS into meetings and memos when his name comes up? To try and make it catch on?

    March 10th 2002. By this point in the life of New Labour hardly anyone is happy…
    I find TB in his study listening to a CD by ELO. “How’s it going?” He looks worried; it’s GB. “What’s he done this time?” No, not Gordon explains TB: “It’s GB of the GOP, George Bush. He wants me to go to DC, to talk about WMD. We might need to involve the UN.” This is a big moment I tell him, what can I do to help? That night Fiona and I talk it over. I tell her not to worry. One thing I’ve learnt, amidst dealing with the whinging bunch of relentlessly egotistical shakedown artists clustered near the top of New Labour, is that TB knows what’s he’s doing. It’s all going to be OK.

    (*) These are spoof entries, I think.

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    2 Responses to “Brilliant! I.M. on A.C. on C.B., J.P. and the terrible TB/GBs”

    1. ‘Prelude to Power’ excerpts – Alastair Campbell Dairies (with relevant pictures) « Tony Blair Says:

      […] doubt if Campbell’s extracts will be quite as much fun as Iain Martin’s version here, or that we’ll learn anything new, but here we go […]

    2. Acne No More ™: Acne Cure*$27-$35/Sale*Top Aff Makes $237K+/Mon. | Acne Skin Cure Says:

      […] Brilliant! I.M. on A.C. on C.B., J.P. and the terrible TB/GBs … […]

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