- (Ipsos/Mori per cent approving in June of each year)
1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 72 62 57 39 55 46 32 30 39 32 28
- Source: Ipsos/Mori, BBC tabulation
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown
Much of the contemporary comment on Tony Blair's premiership in the British press was about his strained relationship with Gordon Brown. Since much of what passed between them is known only to them, it is unlikely that an objective account of the matter will ever be available. Witness statements, in the form of memoirs and interviews by Tony Blair as one of the protagonists, and Peter Mandelson, their mutual colleague and confidante, became available for the first time, in the Summer of 2010. There was no record available at that time of a corresponding statement by Gordon Brown.
When he was elected as a Member of Parliament at the age of 32, Gordon Brown was already an established figure in the Labour party, having been elected to its Scottish executive at the age of 24. According to Tony Blair's biographer, Anthony Seldon he was clearly the star of the 1983 intake of Labour MPs, whereas Tony Blair was a relative newcomer, having unexpectedly been elected in the same year. They soon acquired, what Tony Blair has described as "genuine and sincere liking for each other" . For the next nine years they were virtually inseparable. They shared a tiny office at No1 Parliament Street and they were so often seen together that they became known as "the brothers". They were both recognised as high fliers by the party's seniors, but Tony was regarded as the protegé of the more experienced Gordon. In the early years of their relationship, Tony Blair was later to recall that he had obtained his grounding in politics from Gordon Brown: "he taught me the business of politics in roughly the same way as Derry taught me the business of the Bar".
Their political views at that time were virtually identical. Both wanted to shift the Labour party away from its close linkage with the trade unions, and away from its "tax-and-spend" economic policy. Both were convinced that the "New Labour" party that they wanted to create could form a long- lasting high-achieving government. In temperament, however, they were very different. Tony Blair was a family man, Gordon Brown was single. Peter Mandelson had the impression that Tony Blair "if he wanted to, could walk away" tomorrow , but he could not imagine Gordon Brown as anything but a Labour MP. Gordon Brown was an avid reader: Tony Blair was not. In their office Gordon Brown would usually be hunched over has computer keyboard while Tony Blair would usually be laid back with his feet on his desk.
In 1994, when the leader of the Labour party died, Gordon Brown confidently expected to succeed him. He told Peter Mandelson that he considered the other contenders, Robin Cook and John Prescott, to stand no chance, and he did not mention the possibility that Tony Blair would stand. However, Tony Blair had by then formed a conviction that he had leadership qualities that Gordon Brown lacked, and that he himself could win the country over and lead a successful Labour government. He knew that he was more popular than Gordon Brown among Labour Members of Parliament and with the public (in a MORI opinion poll he had scored 32 percent against Gordon Brown's 9 per cent), but he decided to try to "cajole him out" of a contest rather than confront him. In a series of discussions with Gordon Brown, he argued that he had by far the greater chance of success, but that they had a common objective and that Gordon Brown would in due course be his natural successor. According to Tony Blair, their discussions were difficult but not unfriendly - rather like a loving couple trying to decide whose career should come first.
It was reported at the time, and widely accepted thereafter, that a deal was done at a meeting on 31st May at the Granita restaurant, under which Gordon Brown's agreement to withdraw from the contest was conditional upon an undertaking that Tony Blair would hand over the premiership to him during his second term as prime minister. That has been denied by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (although they agree that such a deal was done later). Tony Blair has also denied that he agreed to yield full control of economic policy to Gordon Brown.
Uneasy partners (1995-2007)
|There are no friends at the top in politics.
The rivalry between them did not end with Gordon Brown's endorsement of Tony Blair's candidacy. In the course of the following twelve years it seems to have developed into wariness, then mutual suspicion, then discord and finally acrimony. There were some differences of political outlook and, although Tony Blair did not at first consider them to be serious, he concluded towards the end that Gordon Brown wanted to abandon some of the essentials of "New Labour". Policy conflicts arose over the relative importance of equity and efficiency with Tony Blair attaching somewhat more importance than Gordon Brown to the market mechanism and the encouragement of enterprise, and Gordon Brown attaching somewhat more importance to the effects of policy actions on income distribution. However, Tony Blair's successful opposition to Gordon Brown's proposal to introduce an upper 50 per cent income tax band was one of the few occasions when that difference surfaced as a direct policy conflict. Differences that arose over the Millennium Dome, ID cards and the Euro were not of that sort and did not cause any serious friction, but Gordon Brown's opposition to university tuition fees and foundation hospitals was regarded by Tony Blair as obstruction. On the major domestic policy issues of raising the standards of education and health provision, however, they agreed and their objectives were largely achieved.
Problems are reported to have arisen from conflicting use of the machinery of government. Tony Blair considered his role to be like that of a CEO who, besides directing policy has to see it is followed, and was at first surprised by the absence of an established means by which a prime minister can give instructions to departmental ministers. Treasury control of annual departmental budgets had always given a substantial degree of policy influence to Chancellors of the Exchequer, and Gordon Brown's introduction of the 3-year "Comprehensive Spending Review" and of a system of "Public Service Agreements" had greatly strengthened that influence. Tony Blair's No 10 staff found it difficult to get access to that machinery, and he created his own "Delivery Unit". The result gave rise to complaints about "conflicting and competing agendas" from the civil service, and may have created a further source of tension.
After a speech by Gordon Brown that was widely interpreted as an attack on Tony Blair  , the two had a meeting to resolve their differences at which, according to Tony Blair, he undertook to stand down before the next election provided that he was given "full and unconditional support" by Gordon Brown. By October of the next year he had changed his mind, saying "If I am elected, I would serve a full third term" in a television interview by the BBC's Andrew Marr . Gordon Brown claimed that to have been a breach of their agreement, but Tony Blair argued that the agreement had been broken by lack of support from Gordon Brown. The dispute was finally resolved in September 2006 by Tony Blair's announcement that he intended to quit within a year
His relationship with Gordon Brown had a profound influence at every stage in Tony Blair's 14-year parliamentary career. Together, and each with his band of devoted followers, they conducted the business of government in a way had never happened before. They made less use of the established government machine than had any of their predecessors, and they were even known to take major decisions without involving any one else. Their actions nevertheless commanded widespread support at the time, although many of them have since become deeply unpopular. Although close (but not identical) in political outlook, they were poles apart in temperament: one (Brown) by far the more intense, introspective and intellectual, and the other (Blair) by far the more laid back, outgoing and instinctual. Colleagues and biographers have observed a relationship of contradictions: a mixture of intimate friendship and distant hostility. Their exchanges appear to have been mostly supportive but frequently obstructive, and the outcomes appear to have been mainly constructive but often destructive. These are subjective impressions, however: the true nature of their relationship is known only to them.
The Iraq decisions
"... he misrepresented the intelligence that he received to the country. Why can he not bring himself to say sorry for that? ."
The principal accusations against Tony Blair concerning the Iraq war have been
- that he had lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,
- that the war was illegal, and
- that the decision to go to war had caused avoidable suffering and loss of lives.
An accusation of lying was made by the then leader of the opposition (see box) in October 2004, after it had become clear that the statement about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, made in the intelligence dossier in September 2002, had been mistaken. That accusation had been made repeatedly in the British press, and a statement by a BBC correspondent (Andrew Gilligan) implying that he had "sexed up" the dossier, and that he had known a statement in it to be untrue, was widely accepted as true by other journalists. Tony Blair's response was, firstly, that the report had been the independent work of the intelligence services and that - except for its foreword - he had played no part in its preparation; and that, secondly, he had believed it to be true at the time. However, when an independent inquiry led by Lord Hutton found Gilligan's allegation to be unfounded, it was greeted with scepticism by much of the British press and with headlines such as "Whitewash!'", and when an investigation under Lord Butler found no evidence of intent to deceive, it was also received with scepticism.
"... the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq."
The question of the legality of the war hinged on alternative interpretations of the words "all necessary means" in United Nations Resolution 1441. Tony Blair has acknowledged that there were reasonable arguments against the interpretation that it authorised the use of force. In favour of that interpretation, he has noted that the Attorney General had been influenced by the Security Council's rejection of the French/Russian amendment that would have excluded the use of force. In his memoirs he concludes that "...the international community jointly agreed 1441 and then got buyer's remorse...", and argues that the importance of question of legality had arisen from the opposition of France, Germany and Russia (recalling the absence of United Nations authorisation of military intervention in Bosnia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Kosovo).
"If you had told me then that we would not find WMD after we had toppled Saddam, and that following his removal there would be six years of conflict as we grappled with terrorism so cruelly inflicted upon the Iraqi people, would my decision have been different? So much bloodshed. So many lives so brutally affected or destroyed ..."
"During Ba'ath Party rule, that leadership perpetrated crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, "disappearances," and summary and arbitrary executions. In the genocidal 1988 "Anfal" campaign, we estimate more than 100,000 Kurds, mostly men and boys, were trucked to remote sites and executed. In the 1980s, the Iraqi government forcefully expelled over half a million Shi'a to Iran after separating out and imprisoning an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Shi'a men and boys, most of whom remain unaccounted for. Since the late 1970s, at least 290,000 people were "disappeared" in Iraq."
The possibility of avoiding conflict by the continued use of sanctions to persuade Saddam Hussein to abandon his programme of developing weapons of mass destruction had been explored in 2002 on the basis of an "options paper" prepared by the Cabinet Office . Tony Blair has recalled his feelings at the time as "it might have worked, it might not have worked, but it was at least as likely, if not more likely, I would say, that it wouldn't work". (It was not known until the Iraq Survey Group's 2004 report that Saddam Hussein had intended to resume the development of weapons of mass destruction once sanctions had been lifted). The options report had concluded that "the use of overriding force in a ground campaign is the only option that we can be confident will remove Saddam and bring Iraq back into the international community". The option of ceasing to support the United Nations campaign to get rid of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was not considered.
Tony Blair accepts the criticism that he had failed to foresee the full consequences of the decision to go to war, but he claims in his memoirs that it is at least arguable that the decision would have been justified even if he had known then what we know now. He refers to estimates that put the death toll of the war at between 100 thousand and 150 thousand, and quotes reports of past atrocities in Iraq to suggest that a greater humanitarian disaster may been avoided.
The death of David Kelly
(summarised from testimony to the Hutton inquiry))
On 18th July 2003, Dr David Kelly was found to have died from blood loss from cuts in his wrists. There was no evidence that anyone else had been involved.
David Kelly was a biologist, a British civil servant, and one of the chief weapons inspectors in the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. On 22 May 2003, he had an unauthorised meeting with Andrew Gilligan, the defence and diplomatic correspondent of the BBC Today programme, at which he discussed the intelligence evidence concerning Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - a meeting that he subsequently reported to his line manager. Doctor Kelly's name as the informant behind Andrew Gilligan's accusations became known to the press, and a decision was made by the Ministry of Defence (after discussions with Tony Blair and others at 10 Downing Street) to confirm his involvement if asked. Interviewed shortly after by a Parliamentary Committee, Dr Kelly denied that he had said the things attributed to him by Andrew Gillingham.
It was widely believed at the time that the press had become aware of Dr Kelly's involvement as a result of a deliberate leak authorised by Tony Blair. Lord Hutton's conclusion on that point was that there had been "no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly’s name to the media."
The "cash for honours" investigation
"There is a fine line here between recognising public-spirited people who wish to support education and blatantly rewarding people for propping up one of the prime minister’s pet projects."
David Willets, then Shadow Education Secretary (reported in the Sunday Times 15 January 2006 )
In January 2006, under the headline "Revealed: cash for honours scandal", The Sunday Times reported that a council member of the trust that helps recruit sponsors for academies, had told an undercover reporter that if a donor gave sufficient money, he could be nominated for a knighthood. There were opposition protests (see box) and press accusations of "Labour corruption" and "criminal conspiracy". During March 2006 it emerged that a number of party political peerages had been blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission because the nominees had made undeclared loans to the Labour Party in 2005. There followed a 15-month police investigation, during which no charges were made but there were multiple publicly-announced arrests and the announcement that the Prime Minister had been questioned. A reported injunction to prevent the BBC from reporting an aspect of the case, that had been obtained by the Attorney General at the request of the police, had the appearance a political interference with press freedom.
The background to the investigation was the long-established practice on the part of British political parties, of rewarding generous contributors to party funds with "honours" (such as knighthoods, peerages or membership of orders of chivalry), the passage in 1925 of legislation outlawing the marketing of honours, and more recent legislation requiring the registration of loans to political parties. It was the first recorded criminal investigation of its sort since the 1930s, and it was distinguished from other police investigations in the reporting of arrests of people who were not subsequently charged 
The memoirs by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson are denoted (TB) and (PM), and Tony Blair's evidence to the Chilcott Inquiry is denoted (C).
- See memoirs by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson
- See interviews by Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson
- Anthony Seldon: Blair, Free Press, 2004)
- TB p68
- Derry Irvine, later to become Lord Chancellor
- PM p155
- PM p160
- TB pp58-60
- Anthony Seldon: Blair, pages 660 and 188 Free Press, 2004
- TB pp65-66
- TB p69
- TB p71
- TB p69
- Interview with Piers Morgan, The Times online February 12, 2010
- TB p71
- ...while he was always off to the left of me, it was all within bounds (TB p103)
- TB p605
- TB p116
- TB p338
- Public Service Agreements , HM Treasury, 2007
- TB p338
- Warning on Blair-Brown 'battles' , BBC News 2 December 2004
- Speech by the chancellor, Gordon Brown, to the 2003 Labour party conference in Bournemouth, Guardian 29 September 2003
- James Hardy Bournemouth 2003: BOLD LABOUR; 57 mentions of Labour..NONE of New Labour, The Free Library 2003
- TB p496
- PM's interview with Andrew Marr, BBC News 1 October, 2004
- I will quit within a year - Blair BBC News 7 September 2006
- Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Assessment of the British Government
- TB p406
- Gilligan was 95% correct, (a survey of columnists opinions on the Hutton Report) The Independent 3 February 2004
- [http://www.worldpress.org/specials/iraq/unscr1441.htm UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002) Adopted by the Security Council at its 4644th meeting, on 8 November 2002]]
- Journey (338)
- Ensuring Justice for Iraq: Evidence Preservation and Fair Trials, Human Rights Watch, September 1, 2003
- Cabinet Office 8 March 2003, Information Exchange
- C p16
- Weapons of Mass Destruction, Iraq Survey Group Final Report, 30 September 2004
- Hannah Fischer: Iraqi Civilian Deaths Estimates, See also Congressional Research Service, August 27, 2008
- TB, page 378
- Revealed: cash for honours scandal, Sunday Times, 15 January 2006
- Labour's corruption is beyond endurance, Daily Telegraph, 15 Apr 2006
- Lucinda Maer: House of Lords Appointments Commission, paragraph 6, House of Commons Library, 9 February 2010
- Cash-for-honours' timeline, Guardian, 11 October 2007
- Attorney general halts BBC probe, BBC News, 3 March 2007
- Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, The UK Statue Law Database
- Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, National Archives,2010
- Police and the Media, House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 16 December 2008