Tony Blair: “I feel like an abused and bullied wife”
Comment at end
21st October, 2007
Tony Blair: I feel like an abused and bullied wife
Tony Blair’s allies were accused of trying to sabotage Gordon Brown’s Government last night after sensational revelations about rows between the two men in a new book written with unprecedented access to Mr Blair’s Downing Street.The book by Britain’s leading political biographer, Dr Anthony Seldon, discloses a series of explosive clashes as Mr Brown plotted to force Mr Blair to resign.
And it gives a revealing insight into the tensions in Mr Brown’s inner circle with a series of venomous disclosures about one of the Prime Minister’s closest allies, Schools Secretary Ed Balls.
The book claims that Mr Blair protested: “I feel like an abused and bullied wife,” after Mr Balls was “astonishingly rude” to him during talks between the camps last year over when he should leave No 10.
According to Dr Seldon, out-spoken Mr Balls also turned his fury on Mr Brown when he refused to step up the pressure on Mr Blair to resign.
The book claims that when Mr Brown returned to his office after failing to trigger a full scale revolt against Mr Blair in a radio interview, Mr Balls reportedly told him: “You bottled it.”
Serialisation of the book, Blair Unbound, starts today in The Mail on Sunday and gives shocking accounts of rows between Mr Blair and Mr Brown and their allies – often involving the most abusive language.
Coming only a week after Mr Blair’s allies were blamed for a series of reports criticising Mr Brown after he called off plans for a snap November Election and claiming his Government has run out of steam, the book is certain to re-ignite the bitter feud between them.
Dr Seldon interviewed nearly all of Mr Blair’s most loyal Cabinet Ministers including Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn, Tessa Jowell, Patricia Hewitt, Lord Falconer, Charles Clarke and David Blunkett. All have clashed angrily with Mr Brown over the years.
In addition, he was assisted by most of Mr Blair’s key officials such as former political aide Baroness Sally Morgan. More than 30 senior Cabinet and Downing Street figures with close links to Mr Blair are listed in the book as having provided information.
The only significant figures close to Mr Brown who are named as being interviewed by the author are Deputy Chief Whip Nick Brown and transport workers leader Jack Dromey, husband of Harriet Harman, Mr Brown’s Labour deputy.
But Mr Brown’s allies fought back last night. Mr Balls “categorically denied” telling Mr Brown he had “bottled it” and sources close to the Prime Minister said Mr Blair’s supporters were guilty of a blatant attempt to use the new book to destabilise the Government.
“Mr Blair’s people cannot accept that they have lost power,” said one. “These stories are a crude attempt to settle scores with no regard to the effect it has on the Government.”
Dr Seldon’s book says 40-year-old Mr Balls regarded Mr Blair as a “moron” and egged on Mr Brown to drive him from office.
Seldon says it culminated in an extraordinary scene following poor Labour results in town hall elections in May 2006.
The author says former journalist and Treasury aide Mr Balls, wanted Mr Brown to use an interview on the Radio 4 Today programme to trigger a full scale revolt against Mr Blair.
But Mr Brown held back – and when he returned to the Treasury, a furious Mr Balls branded him a bottler.
The “bottler” jibe was hurled at Mr Brown in public two weeks ago when he scrapped plans for an autumn poll.
Dr Seldon observes of Mr Balls: “His increasingly assertive role at the Treasury struck some as echoing the 1963 film The Servant, in which the butler, played by Dirk Bogarde, progressively takes over as the dominant force from the owner of the house, James Fox.”
Nor is the Balls incident the only damaging account of Mr Brown’s character. Dr Seldon says Mr Blair had “personal concerns” about his neighbour.
“He was worried about Gordon’s character and personality, the dark side of his nature, his paranoia and his inability to collaborate.”
In his book, Dr Seldon shows Mr Blair struggling to govern the country against a backdrop of constant tension and foul-mouthed flashpoints with Mr Brown.
Dr Seldon says the main reason Mr Blair was frustrated at not securing a bigger Commons majority in the 2005 election was because it meant he could not sack Mr Brown.
The book says that Mr Blair railed in private to aides about Mr Brown and the Treasury, saying: “I’m going to take no more s*** from over the road, I’m going to do it.”
More often than not, it is Mr Brown who loses his temper. Seldon says that when Mr Blair put Alan Milburn in charge of Labour’s 2005 election team, Mr Brown shouted: “You’ve appointed that f****** Milburn! Is it about cooking the manifesto against me?”
After another showdown, Mr Blair complained: “All he would say is, ‘When are you going to F-off out of here?'”
The book also tells how Mr Blair rejected a demand by Mr Brown to ensure no one stood against him in the leadership contest. And when Mr Blair refused to stop Mr Milburn and Mr Byers speaking out, Mr Brown threatened: “If you don’t do what I ask, then there’ll be big trouble.”
WHAT? Threats? From the man who takes his moral guidance from the Scottish kirk?