The Deal review: How Blair and Brown’s political rivalry ended New Labour

By Roshan Chandy

TONY Blair and Gordon Brown’s relationship is one of the most fascinating alliances- and rivalries – to ever make it into politics.

Reignited once again by the popularity of the BBC’s Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution, the deal that killed New Labour stone dead after reviving the party from political ruin has been the subject of much interest – especially since Keir Starmer became leader.

Peter Morgan’s fantastic 2003 film The Deal dramatises the beginning of the Granita Pact starting right from 1983 where Blair and Brown were first elected to parliament.

Ideologically, they were vastly different. Blair spoke of toughening up Labour’s traditional softness on issues such as immigration and crime while Brown was still greatly indebted to the trade unions – which Blair was desperate to distance the party from.

It’s clear from the first scene – in that windowless office where Blair and Brown first meet and exchange conversation about being “technically Scottish” – that the two men were not natural soulmates.

But it was partly their differences that made Brown and Blair such a great team.

Labour needed Blair’s teflon charisma and unshakeable showmanship – he was a performer, an extravert, more a celebrity than a politician who had Ginger Spice wearing union jack mini-skirts and Liam Gallagher pledging his support for New Labour.

In the same way, the party longed for Brown’s fearsome intellect and bull-like toughness. He was the head to Blair’s heart. The yang to his ying. The pauper to his prince. A man known for his volcanic temper and serious social aloofness, but widely respected for being the most powerful and longest serving Chancellor of post-war times.

Together, Blair and Brown revolutionised the Labour Party and politics itself. They were, of course, responsible for Labour’s longest ever run in power at 13 years and three election victories – two of which were landslides.

Without question, there should have never been a succession plan. It was very undemocratic – the fact that Blair just stepped down after 10 years and Brown assumed the Prime Ministerial throne by coronation. Brown even flunked the chance of calling an early election which he would probably have won.

But more than a democratic blunder was the fact that Brown was simply not cut out to be Prime Minister. He was an introvert and a thinker whose iron-fisted intellect was much better suited to nurturing the nation’s finances than running the nation. He should have left the showmanship to Blair.

If Blair had stayed Prime Minister, would Labour have won a fourth term in office?

He may have been hated for the Iraq War, but there was no doubting Blair’s telegenic presence and way with the media. He was a media darling and, in many ways, a natural statesman. Brown, on the other hand, had no Prime Ministerial qualities whatsoever. He should’ve stuck to being Chancellor.

As Tony Blair, Michael Sheen is unshakeable casting. He has Blair’s good looks, his pearly white teeth and almost comedic-like mannerisms. He looks like a natural leader standing there on a podium talking about being “tough on crime, tough on the cause” and stating that those who rape and murder have “no place in our society”.

It’s no wonder Sheen went on to reprise the role in The Queen and The Special Relationship. He looks the spitting image of the man.

As Gordon Brown, David Morrissey is similarly unshakeable. He visibly piled on the pounds for the part and perfected a note-perfect Scottish accent. He’s also brilliant at being abrupt, awkward and aloof in that only Gordon Brown kind of way. He perfects his volcanic temper, his emotional instability and almost Autistic angst.

The Deal is an excellent film charting the beginning of a pact which would kill New Labour. What would Blair and Brown think of it?

Featured Image: Granada Television/ITV Granada

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