'Difficult' Brown was 'maddening': Blair
Former British prime minister Tony Blair said his successor Gordon Brown was "maddening", "difficult" and wore him down with "relentless personal pressure", in his memoirs released Wednesday.
Brown, who was Britain's finance minister throughout Blair's decade in office from 1997 before taking over as prime minister, was the "standard-bearer for dissent", Blair said in "A Journey".
The centre-left Labour Party won three straight general elections under Blair but lost power in May at the first under Brown.
Their close relationship descended into bitter infighting as Brown chased the top job.
"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," Blair wrote.
He said though internal critics naturally rallied to Brown, it was better to keep him close than cut him loose.
"Ultimately, though the relentless personal pressure from Gordon was wearing, it actually troubled me far less than they (or perhaps he) ever realised.
"And it was in many ways a far less toxic and deadly opposition than might have been the case."
Blair said: "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.
"I came to the conclusion 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.
"So 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.
"If I had decided he really was unfit to remain as chancellor (finance minister) I would have dismissed him, even if it had hastened my own dismissal.
"I believed, despite it all, despite my own feelings at times, that he was the best chancellor for the country.
"Though Gordon resisted many of the reforms and slowed some of them down, he didn't prevent them. We did them."
© 2010 AFP