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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-09-02

Tony Blair “has reopened old wounds” with his autobiography, published Wednesday, by attacking one-time friend and successor Gordon Brown. The British press analyses what it means for the future of the Labour Party.

Tony Blair’s memoir “A Journey” looks set to become a best-seller in the UK. But according to the British press, it will “reopen old wounds” and damage the long-term prospects of the Labour Party.

The autobiography, published Wednesday, lays bare Blair’s “anguish” over the Iraq War, includes an admission that he used alcohol “as a prop” and details aspects of his sex life.

But it was Blair’s often turbulent relationship with his one-time friend, finance minister and successor as prime minister Gordon Brown that was most anticipated. Blair did not pull his punches.

Brown was Labour leader for three years before losing a general election in May that brought a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition to power, ending 13 years of Labour rule.

Blair, who handed the reins of power to Brown in 2007, writes that he felt his successor “was going to be a disaster … Gordon is a strange guy, strong, capable and brilliant,” but also “difficult, at times maddening.”

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

The Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph says the book represents “Mr Blair's belated revenge for the manner in which [Gordon Brown] thwarted much that he would like to have achieved, before destroying his residual legacy”.

A bitter leadership legacy

The Times says the criticism of Brown for veering from the New Labour path that defined Blair’s premiership sets a major challenge for a Labour party still smarting from its May election defeat.

This is of particular concern now as the party is preparing to choose its next leader, who will be expected to give Labour a new political direction.

"The philosophical difference that emerged between Blair and Brown -- essentially a dispute about the size and role of the state -- traces the lineaments of the battle between Old and New Labour that brought both of them to public attention," the centre-right newspaper says in an editorial. "This is a question that the Labour Party has yet to settle."

The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson also believes Blair’s criticism of Brown boils down to ideological differences that continue to dog the party.

“His message to [the Labour Party] is clear,” he writes. “Don't do what our party has always done and allow one election defeat to be followed by others. Abandon the New Labour path at your peril.

“In other words -- though he never says so explicitly in his book or his interviews -- vote for David Miliband to be our next leader.”

‘Break free of the Blair-Brown psychodrama’

The Daily Mirror, a traditionally Labour-supporting tabloid, is more blunt.

Mocking Blair’s use of alcohol “as a prop”, the newspaper says the memoirs are a “mix of defiance and self-pity”.

“We're told Mr Brown drove him to booze,” it says in an editorial. “Yet a whisky followed by half a bottle of wine wouldn't have wet Winston Churchill's lips at breakfast.

“Labour needs to break free of the Blair-Brown psychodrama. And that means forgetting Blair. His petty, whingeing memoirs overshadow genuine achievements. It's time for Labour to say bye bye Blair.”

Date created : 2010-09-02


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