Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What if Blair had sacked Brown?

Today's Guardian front page - apart from being a rather obvious plug by Patrick Wintour for his mate Andrew Rawnsley's new TV documentary - begs the question of what would have happened had Tony Blair actually sacked Gordon Brown as Cherie Blair and others were apparently urging him to do?

I think I know the answer: Instead of still being a week or so away from entering No 10, Gordon Brown would already have been Prime Minister for several years.

Blair's big opportunity to sack Brown - probably his only opportunity when you think about it - came in 2001 on the back of his second election landslide. Right up until election day, there were strong rumours that he would attempt to move Brown to the Foreign Office, and that Brown might well choose to go to the backbenches rather than accept.

In the event, it didn't happen, and Blair was never again in a position of sufficient strength to contemplate moving the Chancellor. Indeed, by the time the following election came round in 2005, he practically needed to beg Gordon to ride to the rescue of Labour's flagging campaign.

So what would have happened had Blair gone ahead? Well, I suspect all would have been fine and dandy for a couple of years until the Government ran up against the issue of what to do about Iraq. Let's just assume for the sake of argument that Blair would have acted no differently, and that the consequences of the invasion - the dodgy dossier, the Kelly affair, the Hutton whitewash, the Butler report - would have played out exactly as they did.

To my mind, had there been someone of the stature of Gordon Brown on the backbenches at the time, an obvious alternative Prime Minister who was untained by any of what had gone on during the war and the whole grisly aftermath, there would have been a huge clamour both inside and outside the Labour Party for him to take over.

In short, I think that Blair would have fallen in the aftermath of the Kelly/Hutton affair, Brown would have gone on to win a much bigger election victory than Blair actually achieved in 2005, and the Tories would still be looking at a two-election strategy to get back into contention for power.

Of course, Blair was too smart an operator not to have realised all this, which is one of the reasons why he stuck with Brown through thick and thin. Much as he may have felt like strangling him at times, he always knew that it was better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.

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skipper said...

Yep, you got it Paul. And it didn't matter how much Cherie hated Gordon, Tony knew that politically he had to, ignore her advice, grit his teeth and pretend they were still best mates.

MorrisOx said...

Your analysis assumes, Paul, that the electorate would not have become fed-up with a micro-managing obsessive who shares his great ideas with himself and his pillow.

Broon may or may not be a great premier.

What he is not is charismatic.

David Gladwin said...

...and Brown is 100 per cent guilty of taking us into Iraq. Every bit as much as Blair.

He even found the extra funds to do it, and to keep us there, bless him.