Tony Blair and Gordon Brown on Labour leadership
‘Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution’ charts the unprecedented rise and difficult legacy left by New Labour under the stewardships of Mr Blair and Mr Brown. The BBC series’ first episode sees the two men as young, ambitious MPs determined to modernise a Labour Party that had faced years of devastating election failure. Mr Blair won the 1994 Labour leadership election by a landslide after the sudden death of the incumbent leader John Smith on May 12.
Three years later he was Prime Minister, winning the 1997 general election by an extraordinary 179-seat majority.
However, Shadow Chancellor at the time, Mr Brown, who had been a rising star in the party stood down from the 1994 leadership race and placed his support behind Mr Blair in the interest of “party unity”.
Peter Mandelson, who was Labour’s spin-doctor as the two future Prime Ministers rose through the ranks, claimed Mr Brown felt “immense hurt” upon stepping down for his political ally.
He said: “What Gordon had gone through was immense hurt.
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Gordon Brown felt “immense hurt” after he stood down from the 1994 Labour leadership race
Peter Mandelson claimed Mr Brown was “almost inconsolable”
“At first he had been disbelieving but then almost inconsolable and he didn’t know who to rely on.
“He didn’t know who his true friends were.”
Mr Brown’s speechwriter Douglas Alexander added: “I think there had been a sense of inevitability that had built up around Gordon leading the Labour Party one day.
“It must have been incredibly, personally devastating to have been set aside, in favour of the party’s choice, which was that Tony was the right leader at that time.”
Tony Blair stepped down ad Labour leader and Prime Minister in 2007
Mr Blair won the leadership race against John Prescott and Margaret Beckett, taking 57 percent of the vote, and went on to lead the party to its first general election victory for 23 years.
Mr Prescott won the deputy leadership and became the Deputy Prime Minister during Mr Blair’s premiership.
Meanwhile Ms Beckett, who was the first female MP to stand for leadership of the party, served in Mr Blair’s cabinet throughout his term as leader and eventually became Foreign Secretary.
In the documentary Mr Brown admitted: “Well, it could have been me.
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Gordon Brown ultimately became Prime Minister in 2007
“All politicians are different, they’ve all got different ambitions and different views of what they can or cannot achieve.
“It suited me to get on with the business of reforming the Labour party ‒ we wanted to get on with the job.”
Ed Balls also reiterated Mr Brown’s sense of “duty” fed into his decision to make way for Mr Blair.
He said: “Gordon knew that division between the two of them at that point would have been a catastrophe.
Mr Brown admitted he had a deal with Mr Blair on the party leadership
“He wasn’t happy about it but I think he knew that was his duty.”
There had also long been speculation that Mr Brown and Mr Blair had struck a deal over the Labour leadership, which was confirmed in the documentary.
It was widely believed that the two friends met in the Granita restaurant in Islington, London and that Mr Brown agreed not to stand in the forthcoming leadership race.
In return, if Mr Blair was appointed Prime Minister, he would stay in the job for two terms before resigning in Mr Brown’s favour.
Famously however, Mr Blair ran for a third term before resigning in 2007 upon low approval ratings and mounting pressure due to the Iraq War.
Mr Brown stressed in the documentary that Mr Blair had given his “personal assurance” that he would only stand for two elections, before supporting his ally’s bid to become party leader.
He said: “Well it was simple and it was straightforward and I’m surprised it’s misunderstood.
“Basically it was that he would be leader and serve to the end, or near to the end of a second term, so he had 10 years if we could win government and I would be in charge of economic policy and get on with it.”