Tony Blair recalls Brown’s conference speech advice
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‘Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution’ charts the rise and difficult legacy left by New Labour under the leadership of Mr Blair and Mr Brown. The first episode of the five-part documentary sees the two men as young MPs determined to modernise the Labour Party against the backdrop of devastating election failures. It sees the men discuss the ‘Granita agreement’ which they had both denied for decades.
There has long been speculation that a deal was done over the Labour leadership.
It was widely believed that the pair met in a restaurant in Islington, London, following the unexpected death of Labour leader John Smith on May 12 1994, and that Mr Brown agreed not to stand in the forthcoming Labour leadership election.
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.
However, instead, Mr Blair ran for a third term before resigning in 2007 after mounting pressure due to the Iraq War and low approval ratings.
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In the documentary, Mr Brown revealed that Mr Blair had given his “personal assurance” that he would stand for just two General Elections and then support his bid to be the next 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 ten years if we could win Government and I would be in charge of economic policy and get on with that.”
Mr Blair, who was also interviewed for the film, coyly said: “So, I didn’t want to fight Gordon for the leadership.
“There’s always the debate that it would have been better if we had but I was, at any rate, convinced at the time it was better if we didn’t.
“And the agreement was essentially that he would be a big partner in the Government and yes it was always envisaged that he would succeed me.”
Mr Blair famously won the 1997 General Election by a landslide 179 seat majority before running, and winning again in 2001 and 2005 to become Labour’s longest serving Prime Minister.
By becoming the only Labour leader to lead the party to three general election victories, Mr Blair, didn’t live up to his end of the gentleman’s agreement struck with Mr Brown in 1994.
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Another speculated aspect of the deal was that Mr Brown would be granted wide powers of domestic policy in any future Government led by his friend and long-time ally.
Mr Blair stressed on the documentary: “It was always important to me obviously that for the time I was leader, that leadership was accepted.”
Mr Brown added: “It was a partnership in one sense ‒ that we were working together very very closely.
“But I never doubted that there was one person who was the leader and one person who was, in that case, the Shadow Chancellor.”
The existence of the deal had been denied by both men for years, until Mr Brown confirmed its existence in his 2017 book My Life, Our Time.
However, despite the widely held view that the deal was struck at the Granita restaurant in Islington, Mr Brown insisted that the details had already been agreed.
He wrote: “I always smile when commentators write that we hammered out a deal in the restaurant.
“The Granita discussion merely confirmed what he had already offered and I had already agreed.
“The only new point was Tony’s overture that he wanted to show that, unlike the Tories under Mrs Thatcher, Labour was not a one-person band but a partnership.
“As he walked out of the restaurant towards home he emphasised the word ‘partnership’ again and again, telling me it represented a new departure for British politics.”
Mr Brown did eventually succeed Mr Blair as Prime Minister, but only mid-way through the latter’s third term in 2007.
Mr Brown suggested that the breakdown of his relationship with Mr Blair began almost immediately after the Granita meeting.
Mr Brown wrote: “When I offered to chair Tony’s leadership campaign he demurred and while I helped write his leadership speech I was frozen out of the campaign.
“Long into the future, the focus of the 1994 leadership race would wrongly remain on what was said at Granita.
“The restaurant did not survive and ultimately neither did our agreement”.
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