Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blunkett is re-writing history

In the latest instalment of his diaries currently being serialised in the Guardian, David Blunkett claims that Gordon Brown only backed the Iraq War at the last minute after concluding that Tony Blair would sack him if he didn't. As well as making the paper's front-page splash this morning, this story was also being talked-up by a wide-eyed Nick Robinson on last night's 10 O'Clock News.

I am genuinely surprised at both the Guardian and the Beeb for giving this such credence. If they had cast their minds back to 2003 for a few seconds, they would surely have realised that any notion of the Prime Minister being able to sack the Chancellor at that juncture is palpably absurd.

The Iraq War was, and is, a bitterly divisive issue for the Labour Party. Tony Blair was extremely fortunate that only two Cabinet ministers, Robin Cook and Clare Short, resigned over it, and furthermore that they did so in such a way that the parliamentary opposition to the conflict was fragmented rather than brought together.

The idea that, in this highly unstable political situation in which his premiership hung by a knife-edge, Tony Blair could have sacked Gordon Brown without triggering a successful coup against his leadership is, as Charlie Whelan would say, bollocks.

Then again, it does throw up what would surely be an interesting chapter in a book of political counterfactuals, were Iain Dale and Duncan Brack ever tempted to repeat that exercise.

Had Blair been daft enough to make Brown a martyr to the anti-war cause in, say, March 2003 after the first phase of the conflict ended, Brown would undoubtedly have become Prime Minister by the summer of that year after the unravelling of the Government's case for the war and the suicide of Dr David Kelly.

Mr Brown, untainted by the "trust" issue that attached itself to Mr Blair post-Kelly, would then have led Labour to a third successive 100-plus landslide, reducing the Tories to a parliamentary rump and producing in them such a collective nervous breakdown that their prospects of ever regaining power became negligible.

In other words, if we really were living in David Blunkett's parallel universe, the cause of the left in British politics might today be looking a damned site healthier.

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Bob Piper said...

The idea that, in this highly unstable political situation in which his premiership hung by a knife-edge, Tony Blair could have sacked Gordon bollocks.

Actually Paul, whilst I would doubt the story, what Blunkett says was Blair would sack Brown "after the hostilities", so the notion that he would make Brown a martyr at the time of the anti-war vote would not have arien in any event.

stalin's gran said...


cassilis said...

Your probably right Paul about the sequence of events that would have followed if Blair had sacked Brown but thse aren't actually objections to the credibility of the story - Blair's publically acknowledged that had he lost the vote in the house (18th March I think) he'd have resigned so he was clearly already in a catalysmic mood over the issue.

I'm more interested in the back-story as to why we're seeing Blunkett's diaries now (helpful as they are in rehabilitating Brown's credentials among the left) Is Blunkett putting in the hours to get himself a third stab at a cabinet job next summer...?

CityUnslicker said...

you can't believe anything Blunkett says he's m-m-mad and bonkers, and LALA....and thinks he may get a seat in Grodo's cabinet if he sucks up enough and rats on his old master.

Anonymous said...

That Brown did not support the Iraqi war I do not believe. The history of the man - strong pro-USA polical views from his early days, an interventionist in international issues. More likely he was in one of his sulks with Blair and had retreated into himself.
I also do not think Blunkett's book helps Brown with the Labour left - anymore than Short's resignation did for her.

BondWoman said...

We are seeing Blunkett's diaries now because he needs the money. We didn't see them any earlier because it actually takes time to produce these things properly and put all the publicity arrangements in place.

Richard said...

Given how much Paul (and regular contributors to this blog) enjoyed Prime Minister Portillo, he'll be delighted to hear that the sequel, President Gore...and other things that never happened (ed. Duncan Brack), has already been published by Politico's (ISBN 1842751727). It's available in all (or most) good bookshops, and online at amazon and

And, at £15 in hardback, it's a very reasonable price.

skipper said...

Fascinating speculation but not sure Gordon would have quite followed the path you suggest had he been sacked. Too many imponderables but I agree such a sacking at that time was never really on. In fact I can't think of a time during Blair's premiership when he could have contemplated sacking Brown.