In the room where it happened: how the Blair and Brown documentary was made

At a Strand Group event at King’s College London this week, one of the programme makers discussed the thinking behind condensing 13 years of government into five hours of TV. John Rentoul was there

Thursday 11 November 2021 17:07 GMT
<p>Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution, on BBC2 </p>

Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution, on BBC2

Liz Mermin, the director of episode two of Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution, which covered the 1997 election victory and the peace settlement in Northern Ireland, discussed the unusual conditions in which the series was made. First, the programmes were made without knowing if Gordon Brown would take part. Then, “just as he said yes, finally” at about this time last year, the second lockdown started.

That is why, as one of the consultants on the project, along with Professor Jon Davis and Mary Ann Sieghart, I saw several rough cuts of episodes without Brown. They lacked the tension of the central relationship, with Brown represented onscreen by Ed Balls, Charlie Whelan, Stewart Wood, Tom Fletcher and Sue Nye.

Without Brown, the series would have been more about the exceptionalism of Blair’s premiership, with an invisible force offscreen exerting a mysterious pull on events, and the Brown government even more of a coda at the end.

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