Blair admits tension with PM, but he's not 'bothered'

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Tony Blair has claimed that he could have stayed on in Downing Street in a new documentary which reveals the tensions between the former prime minister and Gordon Brown. But he said he was not "bothered" about claims that allies of Mr Brown plotted against him.

The three-part BBC series, The Blair Years, is likely to reopen debate about Mr Blair's record and his relations with his chancellor. In it, the former prime minister speaks out about Mr Brown for the first time since he stepped down in the summer.

The programme, the first part of which will be screened on Sunday, confirms that Mr Blair considered breaking up the Treasury after the last general election and contemplated removing Mr Brown from his role as chancellor.

Mr Blair admits that there were "tensions" with the chancellor, while former allies and aides to the former prime minister line up to describe problems between the two men.

The programme claims that Mr Blair believed that allies of the then chancellor plotted against him over plans for university top-up fees. Ian Gibson, one of the leaders of the Labour fees rebels, tells the programme that Ed Balls, a close adviser to the then chancellor, now the Education Secretary, urged him on during the dispute.

The documentary also recounts the arguments between Mr Brown and the health secretary, Alan Milburn, over foundation hospitals. Mr Blair says: "The relationship between myself and Gordon was different to most prime ministers and chancellors. It's true there were tensions."

In the programme, Mr Blair describes how he and Mr Brown were "absolutely on all fours together" about granting the Bank of England independence. He says: "Obviously if Gordon had been against it that would have been a different matter, but he wasn't."

Asked by the presenter, David Aaronovitch, whether he knew that Brownite MPs plotted against him, Mr Blair replies: "I'm not saying there weren't real problems but it never bothered me."

Mr Blair adds about his resignation in June: "It's not that I couldn't go on a little longer. I probably could."