'Project Volvo': Memos show plot to oust Britain's Blair

10th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Three top British opposition politicians played key roles in a plot codenamed "Project Volvo" aimed at replacing Tony Blair as prime minister with Gordon Brown, leaked documents revealed Friday.

Current opposition finance spokesman Ed Balls and Labour party leader Ed Miliband were both involved, according to personal papers belonging to Balls which have been obtained by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Foreign affairs spokesman Douglas Alexander was also one of the plotters.

The scheming began in mid-2005, just after Blair won a historic third election and as Britain was reeling in the wake of the July 7 bombings of London's transport system by Islamist militants.

Papers from February 2006 show extraordinary exchanges between Brown, then finance minister, and Blair, with the premier setting out the terms of a proposed handover by the summer of 2007, when he eventually did stand down.

In thick black marker pen, Brown rejected the suggestions, scrawling the words "shallow", "inconsistent" and "muddled" before passing the memo to Balls, who last year fought Miliband for the leadership of the party.

Brown's team then responded with fresh demands, but Blair refused to sign.

Another key part of the plan was to rebrand Brown. Voters in a survey likened him to a "Volvo", the Swedish car, for his reliability, but he was regarded as a dour Scotsman and a poor communicator.

Headed "Project Volvo", one document compares him with the then new Conservative leader David Cameron, who was viewed as a "Sports car, BMW".

Brown needed a "makeover", including a "fitness programme" and "wardrobe/hair", it said.

Miliband himself was also named in the documents as part of the plot to unseat Blair, who served as premier for a decade but whose reforms wre marred by the controversy over the Iraq war.

Brown tried to use the perception of Blair's "lies" on Iraq to force his hand, the papers show.

Brown took power in 2007 but lost a general election last year.

The right-leaning Daily Telegraph did not say how it obtained the papers.

But the resurrection of the Blair-Brown saga, just a day after Blair released the paperback version of his memoirs, comes as a further blow to Miliband as he tries to regroup the centre-left Labour party.

Miliband has struggled to make his mark against Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron despite the fact that Cameron's coalition government with the Liberal Democrats is bringing in unpopular cuts to reduce Britain's deficit.

© 2011 AFP

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