Just when you might have thought it could not get worse for the Prime Minister, we enter the battle of the memoirs. Reading the press this weekend, it is as if senior Labour figures feel they need to speed their stories to the papers while the two words â€œGordonâ€ and â€œBrownâ€ are still high news. Labour figures have certainly learnt from the NU Lab Bumper Book of Spin when it comes to sending out salacious stories and exciting tittle-tattle to boost circulations and encourage good contracts with newspapers for extracts from their literary toils.
John Prescott has confirmed what all good journalists were telling us â€“ and all MPs who watched carefully knew. There was a series of bruising rows between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, and Brown did want the top job. All those official denials, all those pictures and stories spun, especially at election time, to show what good buddies they were, did seek to conceal a very difficult relationship. The Blair government was split into rival camps, and they did all seek to mislead with their official statements, while briefing extensively behind the scenes about the endless disagreements and hurt feelings. One of the reasons why the taxpayer had to pay for an expensive Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, was to handle these family rows, apparently.
John Prescott gave good advice when he suggested to the Prime Minister that he should have sacked Gordon Brown. I always felt Tony Blair should have offered Gordon Brown the Foreign Secretaryship in the third Parliament. He could have presented it to him as a necessary broadening of experience before eventually taking over as PM. If Gordon had accepted, it would have broken his power-base at the Treasury, which was used to associate Gordon with the large sums of public money being spent on causes dear to the hearts of the Labour MPs whose support the would-be Leader needed. It was also the power-base he used to block any Blair reform he did not like. Had Gordon refused the move, all but his strongest supporters would have thought him petulant and disloyal to the team.
Cherie Blairâ€™s memoirs have been brought forward for earlier publication. It is not helpful to the PM to have this concentration on the Blairite past, and the rows at the top that characterised it, so close to an important by-election in Crewe. The aside that Tony is now offering advice on the next election, and how to win, invites retaliation from the PM. The Memoir threatens to rekindle the old rows, as it is difficult for the PM to leave it all unchallenged, without someone putting his point of view. It was, after all, the unpopularity of Blairâ€™s war which led the Labour party pressurising him into going. Raking over the immediate past like this encourages some to remember what they did not like about that period, and others to make unfavourable comparisons between the old PM and the present one.