Leading Article: Stop this nonsense, Mr Brown, you are not the best leader we never had

Share
Related Topics
The partial breakdown in the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor is serious, and damaging both to the Government and the country. On the face of it, it is so remarkable that Tony Blair should have been forced to rebuke his friend and ally in yesterday's newspapers that it is tempting to believe it must be an optical illusion in the world of smoke, mirrors and spin that is modern high politics. But there can be little doubt that Mr Blair wanted it known that he has lost patience with Gordon Brown's "psychological flaws" and his "daft and ill-advised" venture into vanity publishing, to repeat two of the most derogatory phrases attributed yesterday to those speaking on the Prime Minister's behalf.

This is the closest to a public dressing-down that can be administered without actually going public. It followed a pointed reminder to the Cabinet last week of the virtues of unity, and the announcement that Mr Blair would himself take the chair of a new welfare reform committee, with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, rather than the Chancellor, filling in in his absence.

It says a great deal about the state of the relationship between Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street that Mr Blair should have calculated that it was better to expose division at the heart of government than to allow Mr Brown's blatant self-promotion to go unchallenged.

Arguments over the busy buzzing of Mr Brown's supporters may seem like the small change of politics. Individually, the charges laid against the Chancellor by the Blairites are petty. He allowed a television documentary to be made about his role in Labour's election victory. He let it be known that he regarded himself as prime minister to "president" Blair: while the sweet phrases came from No 10, the serious action came from No 11. And he chose to "co-operate" with Paul Routledge over his biography, which laid bare his continuing resentment over the Labour leadership contest of 1994.

It was this last that could not be ignored. It does not matter, except as an indicator of his poor grasp of political reality, that Mr Brown thinks he could have beaten Mr Blair in the contest for the Labour leadership, and hence the premiership. What matters is the persistent and public hawking of this belief. The Chancellor claims he did not discuss the leadership contest with Mr Routledge. This is not true. In an interview in the Treasury he uttered these words which, as his biographer noted, said it all: "The newspapers, with a few notable exceptions, did not back me - not least because I was out of fashion. I was never part of the London scene anyway. But that did not in my view mean much, once the campaign started among ordinary Labour Party members and indeed backbench MPs."

By publicly coveting his neighbour's job, and apparently regretting his decision to pull out of the contest four years ago, the Chancellor puts himself in the wrong. More than simply coveting the premiership, the book makes it clear that Mr Brown still blames Mr Blair's supporters for plotting against him to deny him his rightful reward. Again, it does not matter whether he is right. If Mr Brown thinks that his past resentment is more important than the task in hand, he is a smaller person than he thinks he is.

If the Chancellor really were the figure of stature which Mr Blair has always generously maintained he was, he would have said loudly and often: "Tony Blair is the Prime Minister I could not have been. We owe the scale of our election victory to him and I will do all I can, publicly and privately, to support him for as long as he wants me to."

The danger in this government was never going to be simply disagreement over policy. The truth is, you could barely persuade a cigarette paper to slide between Messrs Blair and Brown on the issues that really matter. When the Tory splits started, it was damaging not just because they disagreed, but because they had grown to dislike and distrust each other, and so could not resolve their dispute.

Both Mr Blair and Mr Brown would like us to believe that their relationship is still strong enough to resolve differences. Indeed, it would have been a lot better for Mr Blair if he had told his advisers to hold their fire this weekend. But the speed with which this crisis has blown up (and be in no doubt, it is a crisis) does not inspire confidence. Although Mr Blair's irritation should have been kept within his circle, and addressed only to Mr Brown himself, it is not up to the Prime Minister to end this row. Mr Brown needs to give ground, openly and graciously. Above all, he needs to realise that his tactics are counterproductive. Not only are they undermining his prospects of realising the Government's best hopes; his own leadership prospects are weakening by the day.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?