'Seething' Brown claims moral high ground – but will not attack his old ally

No comment on Tony Blair's book as he reveals he will help poor nations for free

Gordon Brown is said to be "seething" and "dismayed" about Tony Blair's searing criticism of him in his memoirs but yesterday told aides not to respond in kind.

Instead, claiming the moral high ground, he announced how he plans to devote his spare time to working without payment to improve conditions in the world's poorest countries.

The former prime minister will be paid up to £64,000 for some speeches, to fund a London-based Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown, with a staff of two or three. Mr Blair has a staff of about 130 for his work as a Middle East peace envoy; projects in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia; a London office and his sports and inter-faith foundations. He is said to have been paid up to £250,000 for speeches and to have earned £20m since leaving Downing Street in 2007.

Mr Brown's slimmer operation will be headed by Kirsty McNeill, his former speechwriter who was in charge of external affairs at Downing Street. Once a left-wing activist, she is said to have once shouted at Tony Blair that he was "Thatcher in disguise".

That view may be shared today by others in the Brown camp after Mr Blair's book accused Mr Brown of losing this year's election because he abandoned New Labour, and described him as "a strange guy" who had "zero" emotional intelligence.

But they are not going to go public. Nor will Mr Brown. On the day after he left No 10 in May, he began hammering out a book at his Fife home on the lessons to be learned from the global financial crisis. Friends say he will resist the temptation to respond to Mr Blair in the book, due to be published later this year.

Ed Balls, the close Brown ally who is running for the Labour leadership, told Mr Brown that Mr Blair's account was "really harsh". He said: "It would have been much better if the memoirs had been a celebration of success rather than recriminations. In that sense I thought it was all a bit sad. It was so one-sided. I didn't think it was comradely."

Unlike Mr Blair, who left the Commons on standing down as Prime Minister, Mr Brown will stay on as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. He will not receive a a salary from his new office, which has been registered with Companies House and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Yesterday Mr Brown announced several new global policy initiatives. He will collaborate with Queen Rania of Jordan by joining the Global Campaign for Education's High Level Panel on Education for All as a Convenor.

He will take forward a programme of work on increasing internet access in Africa. He has accepted Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, to join the board of his foundation, which seeks to advance the internet as a global medium that empowers people to bring about positive change. "Each of these positions are pro bono and Mr Brown will not accept any remuneration," his spokesman said. "He will continue to write on global issues, as he has been doing recently with articles on the desperate plight of those in Pakistan and Niger."

He added: "Gordon and Sarah have always made clear they are determined to continue to make their contribution to public life and these latest initiatives are a sign of Gordon's priorities for the future."

Mr Blair said yesterday he would have taken the job as first full-time President of the European Council if it had been offered to him last year and would be "perfectly happy" to accept another full-time public role. "I'm basically a public service guy," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

Defending his money-making activities since he left office, Mr Blair said he spent two-thirds to three-quarters of his time on unpaid work and had 130 to 150 people to support on his payroll.

Waterstone's said the Blair book, A Journey, sold more copies on its first day than the autobiographies of celebrities including David Beckham and Russell Brand. Rankings on Amazon's foreign websites show the book is the 12th best seller the US.

Edited out

When celebrities write books their friends and enemies turn straight to the index. In the case of Tony Blair's memoirs, several names are curiously absent.

Cliff Richard For three years in a row the singer lent the Blairs his £3m home in Barbados as a holiday base.

Bernard Arnault The French businessman and seventh richest man in the world lent the Blairs his yacht, allowed two of the children to stay in his French properties, and Nicky Blair did work experience for one of Arnault's firms.

Joe Mills As a leader within the Transport and General Workers Union, he was instrumental in getting Blair the Sedgefield seat in 1983. When Mills died in 2004 Blair described him as a "great friend". Not great enough to merit a mention.

Herman van Rompuy In 2009 Blair let it be known he was interested in becoming the first President of the EU. The French and the Germans vetoed him; the obscure van Rompuy was appointed instead. Van Rompuy doesn't make Blair's cut.

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