‘Maddening’ Brown drove Tony Blair to drink
Sneak previews of Blair’s memoir reveal how drink became a crutch as Brown turned up the pressure
Even his loyal spin doctor Alastair Campbell admitted this morning that he was shocked by one revelation in Tony Blair's memoir - that the pressure on him from Gordon Brown to step aside became so great that he began to rely on drink as a support.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Blair describes in A Journey how, towards the end of his decade in Number Ten, he would drink a whisky or gin and tonic before dinner, and then have several glasses of wine with his meal. He said he became aware it was "becoming a support".
Campbell told the BBC this morning that he was genuinely surprised by the revelation. He had never seen his old boss drunk and assumed he meant that alcohol had become a "crutch".
And why did he need the booze? Because of Brown.
A Journey went on sale in London at 8.0 am today, with the press under a strict embargo not to review the book beforehand.
However, the Daily Telegraph leaked a number of episodes overnight after getting hold of a foreign language copy before publication. And the Times claimed to have seen Blair's "explosive" postscript in which he deals with his relationship with Brown and the future of the Labour party. (Don't vote for Ed Miliband, being the message there.)
Blair's portrait of Brown comes as little surprise. His Chancellor may have been strong, capable and brilliant, but he was also maddening and difficult and not afraid to resort to blackmail to get his way.
Blair tells how within days of the cash-for-honours scandal erupting in 2006 he met Brown to discuss Lord (Adair) Turner's pension reform plans, to which Brown was implacably opposed.
So opposed, in fact, that he threatened to make sure there was an official Labour investigation into the Lords scandal unless Blair shelved the Turner plans.
Blair refused and, sure enough, the then Labour Party treasurer was on TV within two hours, giving an interview that led to the threatened investigation.
Blair says Brown had "zero emotional intelligence" and he knew he would be a disaster as Prime Minister. He often thought about replacing him but could never come up with anyone better for the job.
"I came to the conclusion," writes Blair, "that having him inside and constrained was better than outside and let loose or, worse, becoming the figurehead of a far more damaging force well to the left."
On Iraq, there is no apology, but plenty of "anguish". Once again, he insists that going to war against Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do whether or not WMDs were discovered by the UN. he says he will devote the rest of his life to making amends - beginning, of course, with giving the proceeds from the book to the British Legion.
On the various personalities he encountered during his decade as prime minister, George Bush was "intelligent", the Queen was "haughty" and Diana, Princess of Wales, was - like him, he admits - "a manipulator".
As for Alastair Campbell, he was a type of "mad man" who was indispensable during Blair's early months in government, but soon went out of control.
Finally, is the book any good?
James Kirkup, a Daily Telegraph political correspondent who admits to having read "bits" of the embargoed tome, says "it reads like a management school textbook written by an evangelical preacher".
Blair "rambles", the editing is "relaxed" and the prose is "patchy", he says. "Anyone reading it for pleasure is in for a fairly hard slog."
Best take a lead from the former PM himself and pour yourself a large whisky first. ·
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