This is not the most enticing of autumnal agendas, but he is resolved to fight a third election.If all these apocalyptic options vary from impossible to highly unlikely there is one remaining path for the duo. After the war against Iraq, the most calamitous failure of British foreign policy since Suez, Blair is a weakened prime minister. If he sacked the Chancellor he would be even weaker and quite probably without a credible economic policy. Those Blairites who eagerly accuse Brown of overplaying his hand forget how strong that hand is Another option would be for the Chancellor to resign. This is not impossible, as he is capable of reaching great depths of frustrated fury about the activities of his neighbour in Downing Street Even so, he is determined to stay put Similarly, it is not impossible that Blair will stand aside. Last month I wrote an article for Prospect analysing the ideological differences between the two men.
Senior figures from both sides told me that I had understated the divide. That is how bad it has became: "You lot in the media should be reporting how seriously split the Prime Minister and the Chancellor really are."The duo and their exhausted allies agree it cannot go on like this, but how can it greatly change? One option would be for Tony Blair to sack Brown, a scenario raised again longingly by one or two Blairites last week This will not happen. The Brownites fear that what these Blairites mean by "radical" is some incoherent, superficially populist proposals by which they will attempt to out-Howard Michael Howard in reactionary zeal. On the basis of the last year, Brown has good cause for concern. Some of Blair's reforms for the public services were rushed through under the banner of "boldness" and are now starting to fall apart under more intense scrutiny.This is why the relationship is incomparably more fragile than before. The two of them are starting to row more intensely over policy matters.
Some senior Blairites blame Brown for being in charge of a timid, conservative election campaign in 2001. They want a more radical manifesto at the next election, to give more momentum and sense of direction in a third term. He returned to work and discovered on the Labour party website that his latest request to be on the NEC had been turned down without a word from the Prime Minister.This seems a relatively trivial issue, but symbolises a more brutal battle about the future direction of the Labour Party and the Government. During his paternity leave, he spoke with Blair most days on the phone, discussing a range of issues, including how they should deal with the new Conservative leader, Michael Howard. He was equally angry that he had not been consulted over such a significant reform. Ever since he has argued that a vibrant National Executive Committee would be a more successful way of reinvigorating the party and has been seeking a seat on the committee as part of the reinvigoration. There was not very much, if anything, in the article that Blair would disagree with Indeed, he has made the same points himself many times.