Hundreds of emails sent between Tony Blair’s closest allies as he fought with Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party were released tonight in an apparent attempt to pre-empt the serialisation of Damian McBride’s book.
They revealed the convulsions within Downing Street in 2006 as the extent of the manoeuvrings by Mr Brown’s acolytes became apparent to Mr Blair’s key advisers.
They included the disclosure that Mr Blair apparently instructed his team to describe the attempt to topple him as “blackmail”.
The emails were released by Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, who was director of strategic communications in Downing Street in August 2006 when Brownites called for Mr Blair to step down immediately or to fix a date for his departure.
Mr Blair’s team sought to rally support from loyal MPs, but the exercise failed and shortly afterwards he announced that he would step down within a year. Mr Blair finally left Downing Street in June 2007.
The frenzied air at Number 10 during the summer of 2006 was laid bare by an email from Jonathan Powell, who was Mr Blair’s chief of staff.
It read: “We need to get people to start using the expression ‘blackmail’ as in we cannot have the party to give into the blackmail of a small number of MPs threatening continued instability while calling for stability.”
Mr Blair is recorded as having told one of his closest aides, Ruth Turner: “Although we may not have seen the back end of the machinations, we have seen the back of the pretence that this is not machinations. What has been exposed is that some supposedly very clever, but actually rather crude, operation, not some spontaneous uprising of MPs and public.”
Writing in The Guardian, Mr Wegg-Prosser – who is revealed in the emails referring to Mr McBride as “Damian McPrickface”, says: “When Labour returns to office, as it could do in less than two years, Ed Miliband will no doubt consider how the errors of the last generation should not be repeated by his. Drawing a line in the sand with the nastier politics of the Blair and Brown era, but not the sound policies, would be wise in my view.”
Mr Wegg-Prosser is now managing partner with Global Counsel, a strategy consultancy which is chaired by the former Cabinet minister Lord Mandelson.