Alastair Campbell reveals details of Gordon Brown- Tony Blair rift

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair's former director of communications Alastair Campbell speaks out on the ex-prime minister's fraught relationship with his chancellor Gordon Brown in the latest extract from his diaries, published by The Guardian today.

Campbell was largely silent on the issue of the Blair/Brown feud in the first - highly redacted - edition of the diaries, published in 2007 shortly after the handover of power in Downing Street.

But today he reveals that Mr Brown was urging Mr Blair to step down as early as 2001, even before Labour's second landslide general election victory that year.

And he reveals that Britain's intelligence services feared France and Germany were trying to exploit their differences to gain an advantage over the UK.

According to Campbell, Mr Brown never forgave Mr Blair for the so-called Granita deal in 1994, when he supposedly gave the younger man a free run at the Labour leadership in return for a promise that it would eventually be passed on to him.

At the height of the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001, Campbell records Mr Brown as telling Mr Blair: "You betrayed me. You said you would never challenge me and you took that job away from me."

While Mr Blair regarded Mr Brown's decision not to stand for the succession following John Smith's death as a recognition that he could not win, he said the chancellor saw it as a "noble, selfless act" and nursed a grievance over it.

Mr Campbell also reveals how Mr Blair was infuriated by the behaviour of current shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who was then Mr Brown's right-hand man at the Treasury.

"TB ... said he had just about had enough of Ed Balls talking to him like something on his shoe," Campbell wrote on April 25 2001.

Even before the 2001 election, Mr Brown told Mr Blair that he was "crap" and should stand down, and the then prime minister told intimates that he had reached the conclusion that his chancellor was working against him.

But Mr Blair said that he could not sack Mr Brown, who he regarded as one of the top five politicians of the 20th century.

Campbell reports that the rift between the government's two most senior figures had not gone unnoticed in European capitals.

While attending the EU summit in Nice in 2000, he wrote: "The French and Germans, according to the spooks, were exploiting the fact that GB was seen as a rival to TB, to try to divide them further."

Mr Campbell told The Guardian: "As Tony made clear in his book, he viewed Gordon as both brilliant and impossible. What is interesting from these extracts is that even when we felt Gordon was wanting Tony out, and the division was causing real damage, Tony was always able to see the strengths that made him want to keep him as Chancellor and later support him as leader.

"I shared that ambivalence, which is why even though I lived through some of these difficulties and divisions, when push came to shove I went back to try to help Gordon in the last election campaign.

"He could be a complete nightmare, but he could also be absolutely brilliant and it is important people remember that. Tony was always the more rounded figure, and in my view a remarkable political leader, but Gordon also had formidable strengths."