How Ed Miliband learnt from the Blair-Brown psychodrama
Inside Westminster: The McBride revelations are a diversion the Labour leader does not need
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Friday 20 September 2013
There is one silver lining for Ed Miliband in the dark clouds cast over a critical Labour conference by the damaging revelations about the faction- fighting, political assassinations and smears by Damian McBride, who was Gordon Brown’s spin doctor.
His book is a dramatic reminder of the feud between two blood brothers after Tony Blair overtook Mr Brown, the older and more experienced of the two, to win the Labour leadership in 1994. But it also reminds us that Labour did not descend into civil war in 2010 when two real brothers contested the leadership, and one knifed his older and more experienced brother.
It could easily have happened. Feelings were running high when David Miliband lost. Yet he conducted himself with dignity before finally deciding to leave the stage free for his brother and take up a job in New York.
Similarly, Ed Miliband, below, has tried to learn lessons from the Blair-Brown era. He has tried to heal wounds and unify his party. He has been “not Brown” as well as “not Blair”.
There are inevitably tensions and rivalries in any party. Since 2010, there have been significant differences over strategy between Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, the powerful shadow Chancellor, who also stood for the leadership then. But for the most part, the two men have fought their battles in private.
As two senior figures in the Brown camp, as they both say, they had a “front-row view” of the Blair-Brown psychodrama. There are tensions inside Ed Miliband’s inner circle too, but these are largely kept behind closed doors.
Having said that, the McBride revelations are a diversion Ed Miliband does not need as he prepares for the Labour conference.
The Mafia-like operation of the Brownites will do some damage to a party that likes to call the Conservatives “the nasty party”, as well as to what remains of Mr Brown’s reputation.
Even some of the participants were shocked yesterday by the rawness of Mr McBride’s disclosures, not least the ruthless “assassination” of Mr Brown’s potential rivals for the Labour crown when Mr Blair stood down.
As one former Blair aide told me: “We saw all the bodies pile up as people resigned or said they wouldn’t run for leader. We told ourselves that Gordon’s team couldn’t be behind all of it. Now we know they were.”
The revelations are also a reminder of Mr Blair’s biggest failure: to use his power of patronage as Prime Minister to ensure there was a credible “stop Brown” candidate when he stood down. It seems that Mr Blair did not stand in the way when the Brown bulldozer rolled towards natural Blair allies such as John Reid and Charles Clarke, who would both have had the courage to stand against Mr Brown.
With hindsight, Mr Blair did not stand by his men, presumably in the hope he could hang on to his own job for a bit longer. In other words, he calculated that Mr Brown would not move against him as long as there were no rivals in sight. If so, Mr Blair was wrong, because Team Brown launched a coup in 2006, forcing him to announce his Downing Street departure timetable.
For me, the most striking image in Mr McBride’s book is him logging into Mr Brown’s email account, and spending hours fishing out cabinet papers so he could leak stories to undermine Brown rivals.
That so much energy in both the Brown and Blair camps was devoted to fighting each other when they were supposed to be running the country is a terrible advert for a party telling voters it has learnt from its mistakes as it seeks a return to power in 2015.
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
Oscar Pistorius trial: Neighbour feared athlete would use gun that killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to shoot himself
Top 10 most expensive cities in the world: Singapore named costliest place to live – but what about London?
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete 'cheated on me' with Reeva Steenkamp, former girlfriend Samantha Taylor tells Pretoria court
Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 The future of sex: The first female condoms were derided, mistrusted and shunned - but will their modern counterparts catch on?
- 2 South African rhino finally put down after roaming Kruger park for days with horn hacked off and bullet in brain
- 3 Italian pensioner hires an escort who turns out to be his son's girlfriend
- 4 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 5 Channel 4 announces two-hour TV show to be broadcast 'Live from Space' later this month
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...