I can hardly complain at The Guardian’s ‘brilliant but bonkers’ headline on the second part of the extracts they are running from my new book, Burden of Power.
Tony Blair said the words, and he said them about Gordon Brown, so even though it is not news that there were sometimes difficulties between them, and even though these have inspired books, films and thousands of headlines, I can see why a newspaper might find that quote worth running.
My own reaction on seeing the headline, partly because of a residual sense of loyalty to Labour leaders, partly because of my mental health campaigning work, was ‘ouch.’
I have friends in the Labour Party, more Blairite than Brownite, who fail to understand why I continue to say good things about Gordon, when not just my book but those of others, have revealed so clearly how difficult he could be. The self same people fail to understand how I, and Peter Mandelson, Philip Gould and others, went back to help him in the last election.
The answer can be found not just in tribalism, but also in other parts of the book where the ‘brilliant’ side can be seen more clearly. A lot of the New Labour successes, and whatever anyone says they were many and varied, were at least in part down to Gordon, his values, his vision, his workrate and his understanding of politics. The current economic crisis would suggest he was right on the euro too.
There is a point in the book where Tony says he ‘does not want’ the TB-GB rivalry to be THE story of the Government. It is certainly A story of the times we lived through, and one that will be talked about, written about, studied for years to come. But so will many of the things they did together which made Britain a better country, and the world a better place.
Politics, whether we like it or not, is at least in part about the personalities of the people in it. Tony and Gordon were similar in some ways, very different in others. Stefan Stern tweeted this morning that they come over in the diaries like a married couple who sometimes thought of murdering each other, but never of divorcing. The book records Jonathan Powell as saying it felt like watching a marriage disintegrate.
Just like a football team, a political team works best when everyone is working together, knowing their role, carrying it out, picking up the pieces for others when they fall down. When we were all in that mode, we were unstoppable. But perhaps because politics ultimately is so much about different people with different views, it just isn’t possible to keep indefinitely the kind of unity you need. I do however wish we had. I think we might still have a Labour Government, rather than the Bullingdon government we have now, if the big players had managed to stick together better.
Ps … I cannot seem to put the link on here, but if you visit The Guardian website, they have set an audio interview I did last week to pictures of the past. Will try to get it on here later. I have retweeted it from someone else for those on twitter.