Cherie accuses Brown of 'trying to force Blair out'

Cherie Blair accused Gordon Brown today of “rattling the keys” of Downing Street over Tony Blair’s head in an attempt to force him out of office.

Cherie Blair accused Gordon Brown today of “rattling the keys” of Downing Street over Tony Blair’s head in an attempt to force him out of office.

In the first extract from her autobiography serialised in The Times, Mrs Blair disclosed that her husband would have stood down as British prime minister before the 2005 general election if Mr Brown had been prepared to back his public service reforms.

Mrs Blair said her husband had suffered a “crisis of confidence” over the Iraq war, fearing that he had become an electoral liability.

But she said he decided that he had to stay on to entrench his plans for city academies, foundation hospitals and pension reform.

She said Mr Brown was “rattling the keys above his head” and failed to understand that Mr Blair would have quit if he had supported his reforms.

“Tony would have stood down, there is no question”, she said. “Instead of which, Tony felt he had no option but to stay on and fight for the things he believed in.

“I was convinced that if Tony failed to stand for a third term, it would be seen as a response to the negative criticism of the war. It would be read by history as a tacit admission of failure.”

In an interview with the paper, she said Mr Blair was now advising Mr Brown through the current political turmoil and counselling him on how he could win the next general election.

“I know that Tony thinks Gordon could win the election and I know that he has spoken to Gordon about how he could do that.

“Tony has given Gordon advice. He and Gordon talk to each other even now.”

She told the newspaper she took no pleasure in Mr Brown’s current troubles and would “be delighted” to campaign for the Labour Party in future.

Mrs Blair’s book 'Speaking For Myself' is also being serialised in The Sun.

In an interview published today, she played down the animosity between her and Mr Brown, saying: “If I’ve had any problems with Gordon, it was only because I thought he was putting too much pressure on Tony to leave when Tony wasn’t ready.”

She writes in her book that the effect the “constant attrition” had on her husband coloured her feelings.

“Gordon and I have had our ups and downs. And when it came down to it, I think Gordon would be astonished if I wasn’t my husband’s biggest supporter. I’m sure Gordon’s wife Sarah is his,” she told The Sun.

She admits in her autobiography that she was furious when Mr Brown pressurised Labour MPs to turn down a planned 26% pay rise in 1997.

She says she was worried about the family’s financial commitments and writes: “I wouldn’t be calmed down. How dare Gordon do that? What did he know about financial commitments? He was a bachelor living on his own in a flat with a small mortgage.”

She told The Times they had “a mortgage the size of Mount Snowdon” on their £3.6m (€4.5m) house in central London’s exclusive Connaught Square.

“That was very scary. Whatever happened, we had to meet the monthly payment and it was down to me. Because no one else was going to meet it, were they?”

Mrs Blair also reveals that the so-called Granita pact between her husband and Mr Brown was not agreed in the Granita restaurant in Islington, north London, at all.

Instead, she says the deal that saw Mr Brown step aside in the Labour leadership battle was agreed at her sister Lyndsey’s house in Richmond Avenue.

She said they did meet at Granita a day or two later “but by then it was all done and dusted” that Mr Blair would become party leader and Mr Brown would take over at a later date.

The timing of the publication of Mrs Blair’s autobiography came as a surprise, having originally been scheduled for the autumn. It is now due out on Thursday.

Mrs Blair told The Times that some of the proceeds will go the charity Breast Cancer Care.

Her aunt died from breast cancer and Mrs Blair’s literary agent Kate Jones - who negotiated the book deal with publisher Little, Brown – had been treated for breast cancer prior to her death in February from liver cancer.

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