Mandelson book tells how Blair discussed plot to oust Brown

Tony Blair played an active role in Labour's agonised debate on whether to ditch Gordon Brown before this year's general election, according to Lord Mandelson's memoirs published today.



Mr Blair vowed not to be a back-seat driver and to keep out of domestic politics – in public, at least – after stepping down as Prime Minister in 2007. But Lord Mandelson reveals frequent discussions with him over Mr Brown's performance and the three unsuccessful plots to oust him. His behind-the-scenes role after he left No 10 will anger allies of Mr Brown, who claim Mr Blair reneged on agreements with him struck in 1994 and 2003 to stand down as Prime Minister.

In 2008, Mr Blair talked several times to David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary and his favoured successor to Mr Brown. He believed Mr Brown had only about a "20 per cent chance" of making a political recovery. "Both of us had a duty to help him take that one last shot, but if he stumbled, Tony felt, there would have to be a leadership challenge," Lord Mandelson writes.

During the final attempted coup against Mr Brown in January this year, Lord Mandelson says that he and Mr Blair "both agreed that if anything happened I should not be involved in encouraging it, but nor should I go into overdrive as I did when James [Purnell] resigned [in June 2009]."

Two months after Mr Purnell quit, when Lord Mandelson visited Mr Blair at his Buckinghamshire home, the former prime minister told him: "Very quickly, the credit you're getting for helping Gordon could turn into criticism that you are the only person propping him up, and are therefore responsible for the party's demise."

His book, The Third Man, says that Mr Blair and his allies Alastair Campbell and Lord (Philip) Gould, feared that if Lord Mandelson helped to prop up Mr Brown "beyond the point of no return", Labour might suffer an even worse election drubbing than already seemed on the cards. "They accepted there were no circumstances under which I would participate in forcing Gordon out. But they also felt I should not stop him using the revolver if it came to that," Lord Mandelson says.

The book reveals an extraordinary move by Lord Mandelson to persuade Mr Brown to leave Downing Street to become "President of Europe" – the post that Mr Blair failed to land last year. "If I stood, they would have me," Mr Brown told Lord Mandelson, who comments: "If it was true, it struck me that it would be good for Gordon, good for Britain and very possibly good for our electoral chances. 'Are you interested?' I asked him. 'It's a good job.' He quickly replied, 'No. No.' I let it drop."

Lord Mandelson's 14-year feud with Mr Brown began when he backed Mr Blair as Labour leader in 1994 and ended with his surprise return to the Cabinet in 2008, after which he became Mr Brown's right-hand man. He defends his decision not to join the plots to install another leader before the election.

He admits that some in his party believe he contributed to Labour's defeat by bolstering Mr Brown's position. "One reason I did not take action was partly selfish: I did not want to be accused of 'treachery' all over again," he concedes. "But also, I was never convinced, so near the election and in the absence of an obvious consensual alternative, that a change of leadership could have been easily, bloodlessly or quickly achieved, or that having three Prime Ministers in a single Parliament would have been an electoral asset."

During this year's election campaign, Mr Blair rang Lord Mandelson to criticise Labour for cosying up to the Liberal Democrats and urged him to step up attacks on Nick Clegg's party. He warned that Labour would be making a mistake of historic proportions if the Liberal Democrats finished above it in the share of the vote.

Mr Blair also intervened to tell Mr Brown to step down during talks on a possible Lib-Lab coalition after the May election. "Tony told him, and me, that the public simply would not accept Gordon remaining as Prime Minister in those circumstances," Lord Mandelson writes. "He also felt that the issue was absolutely crucial to the way Labour would be seen in future by the voters."

According to the book, Mr Blair hoped that Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, would stand against Mr Brown for the Labour leadership in 2007, because this would allow David Miliband to enter the race. Although Mr Blair "harboured doubts about whether David was wholly New Labour", he was sure he would be "a candidate of renewal and reform, and had some chance of winning."

Lord Mandelson told Mr Blair: "You are in danger of being blamed by history for saddling us with Gordon because of your own desire to keep buying him off to save yourself, and because of your failure to build up an alternative in the Cabinet." Mr Blair replied: "I fear you may be right."

In his own words...

On Blair...

Mandelson to Blair on his Iraq war doubts

"You can go in, you can take out Saddam, but what do you do with Iraq? You're going to have a country on your hands. I don't know what your plan is. I don't know how you're going to do it. Who is going to run the place?" Blair replied: 'That's the Americans' responsibility. It's down to the Americans.' I said I certainly hoped they knew what they were doing."

"Shortly before the invasion, Alastair [Campbell] and I were talking when he [Blair] suddenly asked me: 'Do you think we're right to be doing this?'

"I couldn't help but laugh. 'Gosh,' I said, 'It's a bit late to ask that, isn't it? I thought you've made up your minds.

"He said: 'Well, we have.'

"'And?' I replied.

"'And we're going to do it,' said Alastair."

Blair to Mandelson

"'There are three groups in the Labour Party. There's Old Labour. There are people who are not Old Labour, and will follow New Labour, but who aren't really New Labour. And there are those who are genuinely New Labour.' Who are they?' I asked. He replied: 'Me. You. And that's about it.' "

Blair on Brown

"He's like something out of the Mafiosi. He's aggressive, brutal, in order to get what he wants.... It's intimidation. He is eclipsing me in order to dislodge me."

Mr Blair "variously believed, and told me, that Gordon was mad, bad, dangerous and beyond hope of redemption."

On Brown...

Mandelson on the failings of this year's election campaign

"I could not seem to make the levers and buttons work in the way I had in previous campaigns."

"I had struggled in the weeks leading up to the election, and had never felt able to get a grip on the campaign."

Brown on Brown

"So much of the problem is me. I realise that." (To Mandelson, October last year)

Brown to Mandelson

"It was all so wretched between us all – you, me, Tony. It was so wasteful! We could have achieved so much more. We still did a lot, though. Perhaps surprisingly."

Mandelson to Brown

"You saw everything we did through the prism of 'We want to destroy you'. We saw everything you did through the prism of 'You want to get Tony out.' It was a sort of mutually assured destruction."

Mandelson on Mandelson

"I had described myself as 'Minister for Looking Ahead.' I was clearly not particularly good at doing that for myself. If there was one 'psychological flaw' that I shared with Gordon, it was tunnel vision." (On his £373,000 home loan from Geoffrey Robinson which led to his first resignation from the Cabinet in 1998)

Mandelson on Britain's debt crisis

"The problem was that we were deep in a pit of debt, and still digging. The markets and the media knew it, and the country felt it." (During a dispute between Alistair Darling and Brown ahead of the pre-Budget report last December)



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Electrical Technician

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Urgent requirement for Electrical Techni...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on