Blair: I gave Brown no guarantees on clear run

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair refused Gordon Brown's repeated requests to give him a written "guarantee" that Labour would follow his economic and social policies after winning power.

The disclosure last night calls into question a statement leaked yesterday outlining the pact struck by Labour's two leading modernisers after the death of the Labour leader John Smith in 1994. Mr Brown stood aside to allow Mr Blair a clear run in the party's leadership election.

The revelation threatens to revive the tension between the Blair and Brown camps that has simmered since 1994 and compound a last-minute wrangle between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor over the wording of Mr Brown's policy announcement on the euro on Monday.

A statement about their 1994 deal, published yesterday by The Guardian, suggested that Mr Brown had amended a draft version so that he could cement his key role as Labour's domestic policy overlord.

The original draft said: "In his Wales and Luton speeches, Gordon has spelt out his fairness agenda - social justice, employment opportunities and skills - which he believes should be the centrepiece of Labour's programme, and Tony is in full agreement with this and that the party's economic and social policies should be further developed on this basis."

According to the newspaper, the final version was amended after Mr Brown proposed in his own handwriting that [Tony] "is in full agreement with" was replaced by the firmer "has guaranteed this will be pursued".

In a surprise twist, the Blair camp insisted last night that the original draft stood because Mr Blair refused to give Mr Brown the "guarantee". Blair aides told The Independent that the future Prime Minister believed the word "guarantee" would pre-empt the Labour Party and the British people, who had yet to elect him.

The draft statement was written by Peter Mandelson, acting as an honest broker between the two men before losing Mr Brown's trust. Brown allies urged Mr Mandelson to persuade Mr Blair to amend the draft version in line with Mr Brown's proposal. But Mr Blair twice rejected the request and so the original draft stood, without the "guarantee" sought by Mr Brown. Blair aides insist that was the final agreement, not the version amended in Mr Brown's writing.

The negotiations over wording came the day after Mr Blair and Mr Brown met at Granita restaurant in Islington to seal what became known as the "Granita pact". The statement drafted by Mr Mandelson is believed to be the only document relating to their agreement.

It made no mention of a commitment by Mr Blair to stand down in favour of Mr Brown at some point, which some Brown allies claim was part of the deal.

One member of the Blair camp said yesterday: "Tony made no explicit or implicit promise to hand over to Gordon. He told him that, if he was elected Labour leader and served as Prime Minister, there was no reason why Gordon should not succeed him. He said that, by standing down then, Gordon was not saying goodbye for all time to becoming leader and Prime Minister."

After Mr Blair celebrates 20 years as an MP in his Sedgefield constituency tonight, they will meet at Downing Street tomorrow to finalise the Chancellor's Commons statement on the euro.

One outstanding issue is over plans to publish legislation allowing the Government to call a euro referendum. Mr Blair is believed to want an enabling Bill to be included in the Queen's Speech in November and for it to be passed by next summer. Mr Brown, though, wants only a draft Bill to be published for discussion, with no legislation pushed through Parliament. One pro-euro minister said yesterday: "A draft Bill is not enough. We want a real Bill."

In an attempt to show they are united over the euro, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will hold a rare joint press conference at Downing Street on Tuesday.