1 Sep 2010

Blair book: the aftermath

How will Gordon Brown retaliate? And when? I understand he has been talking to friends today telling them not to retaliate right now.

The ballot papers for the leadership contest have gone out and he senses a full-scale retaliation would make matters a whole lot worse.

But in his book, Tony Blair accuses Gordon Brown of plotting, lying, scheming his way to power and then presiding over a lurch to the left that threw away the 2010 general election.

The candidates for the leadership have to crawl out from all this and look fresh but it won’t be easy. The key candidates are dragged into the Blair book saga by implication if not directly. Ed Miliband is part of the cult around Gordon Brown that lurched back to “tax and spend” and stopped being New Labour.

Lurch to the left now, Tony Blair warns, and the party will “lose even bigger next time” – knowing full well that Ed Miliband is being cast as the Miliband brother that will lean more to the left.

Tony Blair warns that the party needs to be aware that the coalition could collapse at any minute – that, he says, “means being ready at any time to assume the mantle of government.”

David Miliband, as Tony Blair well knows, has been cast as the man who could, with the experience of foreign secretary behind him, assume office tomorrow if required. As for Ed Balls , Tony Blair says he “behaved badly,” was “muddled , ” “wrong,” and never got “aspiration.”

But the contest is down to the Miliband brothers. So does Ed Miliband suffer from association with the Gordon Brown portrayed here or does David Miliband suffer from assocation with TB?

Tony Blair clearly calculates that the history of the Brown administration, 2007-10, is the elephant in the leadership contest room, which has not been subjected to any sort of real analysis or retrospective in the hustings. He wants to put it centre stage. Remind them who was a member of the Brown “cult” without giving a full endorsement to the candidate he hopes will win – David Miliband.

Some other vignettes from the book.

– Tony Blair seems to have come dangerously close to endorsing the coalition government in an earlier version of the book seen by Bloomberg. They report that an earlier draft referred to the coalition as “a Tory version of New Labour” – switched in the published edition to “a Tory version of a centrist government (whether they get that is another matter).”

– There are many moments of self analysis that read like a therapy session.
“Over time, I began to think there was never a moment when I could be completely candid and exposed. You worried that even sitting in your living room or in the bath, someone would come to photograph, question and call upon you to justify yourself. I became unhealthily focused on how others saw me …” (p344).
“My relationship with (the British people) had always been more intense, more emotional … than the normal relationship between leader and naton.” (p658).
“I had reached a new stage of development within myself.” (p 533) and many many more.
They come across as very authentic, quite raw but also quite simple.

– Huge number of oddities in the book, sharing with us that he “likes to have time and comfort in the loo… and I couldn’t live in a culture that doesn’t respect it.” I wonder which culture he has in mind?

–  Much demotic language. Jon Cunliffe, Treasury Official now at No. 10, is being harangued by Gordon Brown at an EU summit – Tony Blair says he was “doing his nut, poor bloke” (p542)

– Anti-intellectualism… it’s not out there stated, but there are many references to living by instinctive judgments, a disparaging reference to Ed Balls sharing the “bane of all left-leaning intellectuals .. these guys never “get” aspiration.”

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