Brown a 'disaster' as British PM: Blair

1st September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Gordon Brown had "zero" emotional intelligence and his reign as British prime minister was "a disaster" that was "never going to work", his predecessor Tony Blair said in his memoirs out Wednesday.

Blair said Brown was "maddening", "difficult" and wore him down with "relentless personal pressure", as he unleashed his feelings on Brown's shortcomings.

Blair held his tongue during Brown's three years in office but let loose on their years of bitter rivalry in his memoirs, entitled "A Journey".

The centre-left Labour Party won three straight general elections under Blair but lost power in May at the first under Brown, who had been finance minister throughout Blair's decade in office from 1997.

Their close relationship descended into bitter infighting as Brown chased the top job.

While acknowledging Brown's strengths, his succession was "unwise because it was never going to work," Blair wrote.

Brown lacked the political instinct "at the human gut level", Blair said.

"Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero."

"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 his party has lost power through abandoning his "New Labour" centrist, modernising approach -- comments that will resonate deeply in the party on the very day it begins voting to choose a new leader.

The party lost the May election because "it stopped being New Labour". Unless Brown defined himself thus, his premiership "was going to be a disaster. I knew it."

Labour's 13 straight years in power, their best-ever run, could have "gone on longer, had it not abandoned New Labour."

Blair went into detail on "the Gordon problem -- the combination of the brilliant and the impossible".

After the death of Labour leader John Smith in 1994, Blair persuaded Brown to step aside in favour of his candidature.

Blair said he was "still not sure" it was the right decision and feels Brown should have taken his chance, calling it "a battle unresolved".

As Brown pushed for Blair to go, "ultimately, though the relentless personal pressure from Gordon was wearing, it actually troubled me far less than they (or perhaps he) ever realised," Blair said.

"And it was in many ways a far less toxic and deadly opposition than might have been the case."

Blair said any deal to hand over power was "an assurance that should never have been asked or given" and should have shown Brown was "disqualified" for the premiership.

It was "not our right. Not wise. Not sensible politically, let alone democratically".

Though Brown was the "standard-bearer" for dissent in the party, Blair concluded it was less damaging to keep him inside the circle than kick him out.

Had he sacked Brown, "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," he said.

"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.

"I believed, despite it all, despite my own feelings at times, that he was the best chancellor for the country."

He added: "Though Gordon resisted many of the reforms and slowed some of them down, he didn't prevent them. We did them."

The fresh focus on the battles between Blair and Brown could re-open old wounds in the party, with the leadership race developing into a battle between the brothers David and Ed Miliband.

David, the former foreign secretary, used to work as a policy advisor to Blair, while former energy secretary Ed advised Brown.

Blair is not going to back any candidate but his warnings against drifting leftwards away from the centre ground will be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of David Miliband.

© 2010 AFP

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