When it comes to the inner workings of New Labour, Andrew Rawnsley gets all the best scoops. He knows who it was who called Gordon Brown "psychologically flawed," and now he's discovered, via an early draft of Alastair Campbell's memoirs, that Tony Blair once referred to a "very senior" Labour figure from the 1980s as "a cunt."
As recounted in yesterday's Observer, Blair requested that the expletive be deleted from the final version, lest it damage his reputation too much, though as Rawnsley points out, it is hard to see how Blair is going to come out of any book written by Campbell as anything other than media-obsessed.
But be that as it may, Rawnsley's revelations have now kicked off a new guessing game: who was on the end of the Prime Minister's four-letter outburst? Apparently it was "a very senior Labour figure from the 1980s who has been highly critical of New Labour," which narrows the field considerably.
Who were the senior figures from the 1980s? You could name, in moreorless chronological order, Michael Foot, Denis Healey, Peter Shore, Neil Kinnock, Roy Hattersley, John Smith, and Gerald Kaufman. These were the men who, at one time or another, occupied the posts of leader, deputy leader, shadow chancellor or shadow foreign secretary during the course of that decade.
So which one is it? Well, Foot, Kinnock, Smith and Kaufman can be ruled out because none of them has ever been "highly critical" of New Labour. Shore can be ruled out because, although twice a leadership candidate, he never really qualified as "very senior."
It follows, therefore, that Blair must have been referring either to Healey, who has been fairly personally critical of him though not of the wider New Labour project, or Hattersley, who has indeed been highly critical of both. My money is on the latter.
As it is, Hattersley is well-used to being on the end of somewhat agricultural language from his senior party colleagues. During the 1976 leadership election, he dropped in on Tony Crosland and asked him whether he would like to hear in detail his reasons for voting for rival candidate Jim Callaghan.
Whereupon Crosland gave the immortal reply: "No. Fuck off."