The sound of breaking glass is simply politics as usual

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Tony sometimes gets annoyed with Gordon. Gordon sometimes gets annoyed with Tony. Mo was annoyed with Gordon, then she became annoyed with Tony as well, and both of them became fed up with her. Personality clashes are a fact of political life. The question that matters is whether yesterday's revelations of friction at Cabinet level amount to anything more substantial than passing gossip.

Tony sometimes gets annoyed with Gordon. Gordon sometimes gets annoyed with Tony. Mo was annoyed with Gordon, then she became annoyed with Tony as well, and both of them became fed up with her. Personality clashes are a fact of political life. The question that matters is whether yesterday's revelations of friction at Cabinet level amount to anything more substantial than passing gossip.

It certainly seems a pity that the Prime Minister is unable to find a role for Mo Mowlam which makes constructive use of her undoubted gifts. But the picture which emerges from Julia Langdon's sympathetic biography of Ms Mowlam is one in which her subject was done down by a combination of bad luck and her own misjudgements as much as by Mr Blair or his acolytes. She could have been mayor of London or Health Secretary by now, but the cards did not fall quite right and she played them badly. Beyond that, the book suggests that politics is a rough old game. No shock there, then.

The flaws in the Blair-Brown relationship described in Andrew Rawnsley's book are also well known. They are peculiar in kind to the brotherly partnership between the two men going back to 1983, but familiar in degree in politics. All political relationships are potentially rivalrous, backbiting and psychologically fraught, but it is true that the one relationship which is central to British government is that between a Prime Minister and his Chancellor.

It is impossible to tell, even from Mr Rawnsley's account, whether the Blair-Brown relationship is totally dysfunctional, or simply enriched by the inevitable crockery-throwing of any close and strong bond. What would certainly begin to matter would be if the personal friction exacerbated policy differences, which is what eroded the Thatcher-Lawson relationship, in turn destroying the Thatcher government.

And, for all the eager hopes of the euro-haters, there is no evidence that Mr Blair and Mr Brown are divided on any of the fundamentals of economic policy, and in particular the euro. It is true that the Chancellor appears to take a more cautious line on the tactics, and regards the Prime Minister's enthusiasm for an early referendum after the next election as unwise.

But there is no doubt that he takes this view because, like Mr Blair, he wants to win that referendum. Arguing about tactics is essential to getting policy right, but the underlying objective is not in doubt. So long as that remains the case, the sound of smashing plates coming from Downing Street neighbours is just politics as usual.

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