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Blair book reveals clash with Brown

Tony Blair has risked plunging the Labour leadership contest into civil war by issuing a warning to the party not to drift to the left.

In his memoirs, published on the day the first votes were cast in the leadership election, Mr Blair warned that Labour faces defeat at the next election if it abandons the New Labour agenda he framed as prime minister.

His comments were widely seen as support for leadership front-runner David Miliband over his brother Ed, though the former premier was careful in the book and interviews promoting it not to endorse any of the five candidates to succeed Gordon Brown.

David Miliband made no public comment on the autobiography, but Ed said it was time to "move on from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson" and that he was the candidate best placed to "turn the page" on that era. And another contender, Andy Burnham, accused Mr Blair of "re-running the battles of the past", adding: "Labour needs to leave all this behind. Members are fed up with it. Most are not Blairites or Brownites, Old or New Labour. They are just Labour."

Mr Blair's book, entitled A Journey, lays bare the rift between himself and Mr Brown during his time in power, as well as his concerns about his chancellor's fitness to follow him into 10 Downing Street. Describing Mr Brown as brilliant but "maddening", Mr Blair blamed his successor for losing the last election by deviating from the New Labour message.

"Labour won when it was New Labour. It lost because it stopped being New Labour," he wrote. "This is not about Gordon Brown as an individual... Had he pursued New Labour policy, the personal issue would still have made victory tough, but it wouldn't have been impossible. Departing from New Labour made it so."

Mr Blair said he knew before leaving office that Mr Brown could well be a "disaster" as Prime Minister. And he revealed that he advised David Miliband in 2007 that he might beat Brown if he stood against him as a New Labour candidate for the succession.

In a warning to the party as it prepares to select a new leader, Mr Blair wrote: "The danger for Labour now is that we drift off, or even move decisively off, to the left. If we do, we will lose even bigger next time. We have to buck the historical trend and face up to the reasons for defeat squarely and honestly."

In one of the most sensational passages, Mr Blair effectively accused Mr Brown of blackmail for threatening to trigger an investigation into the cash-for-honours affair if the PM did not back down in a row on pensions. Within an hour of Mr Blair making clear he would press ahead with pension reform, Labour's then treasurer Jack Dromey had gone on TV to call for an inquiry. Mr Brown denied having spoken to him and Mr Blair acknowledged that he did not "know for a fact" that he had, but he added: "I couldn't forget it and found it hard to forgive."

Waterstones later said A Journey had become the fastest-selling autobiography ever and had eclipsed Peter Mandelson's The Third Man, which became the fastest-selling political book the story had seen when it went on sale earlier this year.


From Belfast Telegraph