Tony Blair’s memoirs went on sale today, laying bare the divisions at the top of the Labour Party and focusing attention on his relationship with “maddening” Gordon Brown.
Former prime minister Blair’s book, 'A Journey', released at 8am today, reveals the depth of the rift between the figures who dominated British politics between 1997 and 2010.
Mr Blair said he was put under “relentless personal pressure” by Mr Brown but could not sack his Chancellor because he feared that would lead to him being ousted earlier.
In an interview with The Guardian, Mr Blair said that, towards the end of his time in office, the relationship with his eventual successor became “difficult, very difficult” with disagreements on major aspects of policy.
The newspaper reported that, at one point in his book, Mr Blair says he concluded that, unless Mr Brown defined himself along New Labour lines, his premiership “was going to be a disaster. I knew it”.
But in the book Mr Blair wrote that he was powerless to prevent his successor moving from No 11 to No 10 Downing Street.
“It is easy to say now, in the light of his tenure as prime minister, that I should have stopped it; at the time that would have been well nigh impossible.”
Mr Blair acknowledged the strengths that made Mr Brown a formidable rival, and suggested his power base within the party and media would have made it difficult to remove him.
“Was he difficult, at times maddening? Yes. But he was also strong, capable and brilliant, and those were qualities for which I never lost respect.”
He added: “When it’s said that I should have sacked him, or demoted him, this takes no account of the fact that had I done so, the party and the government would have been severely and immediately destabilised and his ascent to the office of prime minister would probably have been even faster.”
In the book Mr Blair also hints that Mr Brown ratcheted up pressure over the cash-for-honours scandal in a clash over pensions reform.
The Guardian reported that Mr Brown told the prime minister he was considering calling for Labour’s National Executive to carry out an inquiry, but would drop that if Mr Blair backed down over the pensions proposals.
When Mr Blair refused, Labour Party treasurer Jack Dromey gave a series of interviews attacking the loans furore.
Mr Blair said Mr Brown lacked political instinct “at the human gut level”, according to The Guardian.
He wrote: “Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely.
Emotional intelligence, zero.”
Mr Blair believed his rival’s premiership “was never going to work” and the party’s election defeat under Mr Brown in May happened because “it stopped being New Labour”.
As well as the stormy relationship with Mr Brown, the book covers events from throughout Mr Blair’s political life, from his election as Labour leader in 1994 and prime minister three years later to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Northern Ireland peace talks, war in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, and the struggle against terrorism.
The Iraq war inevitably features at length, with Mr Blair acknowledging the “anguish” he feels about the conflict but asserting that leaving Saddam Hussein in power would have been a “bigger risk” than removing him.
Ill feeling towards Mr Blair as a result of the divisive decision to invade Iraq will be evident today, as protesters will mark the publication of what they branded “the memoirs of a war criminal”.
The Stop the War Coalition said: “Rather than having his memoirs promoted, Tony Blair should be being held to account for the terrible suffering he has inflicted.”
Mr Blair is donating all the profits from his memoirs to the Royal British Legion to help fund a new sports centre for injured troops.
He told The Guardian: “Everything I receive from the publisher I will give. It works out at roughly £4m (€4.85m) because we didn’t do a serialisation so there’s a deduction from the original advance.
“It’s roughly that. That’s the minimum that they will get. Obviously if the book sells they’ll get more than that.”