London: In a sordid tale of political
intrigue, secret documents reveal that a group close to former
chancellor Gordon Brown plotted to oust Tony Blair as the
prime minister in 2005 at a time when the government was
grappling with the London tube blasts.
The rivalry between Blair and Brown was an open
secret, but this is the first time the intensity of their
tussle for power has emerged on record.
The revelations are particularly damaging because the
intrigues continued even as efforts were on to deal with the
The Daily Telegraph obtained more than 30 memos
belonging to Ed Balls, who was the Education secretary then
and one of Brown`s closest advisers.
It ran the story under the headline "Revealed: Ed
Balls and the `brutal` plot to topple Blair".
Blair stepped down as prime minister and Brown took
over in June 2007.
Publishing the secret memos today, the newspaper
also names current Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow
foreign secretary Douglas Alexander as being involved in
`Project Volvo`, which was supposedly an attempt by his allies
to re brand Brown in his bid to take over as the prime
The documents reportedly disappeared from Ball’s
Department for Education during the 2010 general election.
The Cabinet Office is looking into whether there were
any "breaches of document security within government".
The documents disclose details of secret meetings,
opinion polls on Blair`s policies and attempts to rebrand
Brown`s image. They also show Brown`s supporters met on 21
July 2005, the day of attempted terrorist attacks on London.
The papers include letters between Blair and Brown,
which show them haggling over the terms of a handover of the
prime ministership to Brown.
In one document, Brown asks Blair to agree to
certain commitments, including: "I will make it clear at the
2006 conference it was my last; call for an immediate
leadership election to be resolved by December.
I accept that decisions about the party`s future
beyond 2007 and all public spending decisions after 2007-8 are
for you [Mr Brown] to resolve."
Another handwritten note from Brown appears to be a
political wish list, including the phrases "control of party
appointments" and "public expression of sharing power +
management of transition".
In February 2006, in response to Brown`s handover
requests, Blair wrote to his chancellor: "The division at the
top is killing us."
He wrote: "You (understandably) want to end the
uncertainty by me going now", but says it would be "corrosive"
if Brown was seen to be "disloyal" or "too eager to get his
hands on the job".
Blair said he will agree to the timetable for a
handover that Brown requested, but that in return he will need
"full help and co-operation" on key reforms to the NHS,
schools, welfare and energy.
Blair wrote: "Whilst I remain PM, the final decision
has to be mine; and that cannot provoke a breakdown. I will
try, at all costs, to avoid disagreement, but there can`t be
stalemate if it happens."
On a copy of Blair`s letter he passed to Balls,
Brown scribbled the words "shallow", "inconsistent" and
Balls today said he had no idea how the papers had
come to light. He said: "The idea that that these documents
show there was a plot or an attempt to remove Tony Blair is
just not true.
It`s not justified either by the documents themselves
or by what was actually happening at the time."
Balls said: "Gordon Brown and Tony Blair had
achieved great things together, but by this period it was
hard. The relationship was under stress, there was a lot of
pressure. There was difficulty, there were arguments."