Brown Maddening, His Premiership a Disaster: Blair

Prasun Sonwalkar/H S Rao/London
Brown Maddening, His Premiership a Disaster: Blair
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says his successor Gordon Brown was a "difficult and maddening" man with "zero" emotional intelligence and that his premiership was a "disaster" that was never going to work.

In remarks that could reopen old wounds in the Labour party, 57-year-old Blair's long-awaited memoir also says he doesn't regret the Iraq war - although he wept for dead soldiers and civilians - and carries revelations about the politician's alcohol use, his interactions with the Queen and his testy ties with his successor.

In the memoir A Journey out today, the charismatic Blair came down heavily on his rival saying he was "maddening", "difficult" and wore him down with "relentless personal pressure", as he unleashed his feelings on his party colleague's shortcomings.

Giving readers behind-the-curtain insights into major world events from the death of Princess Diana to the September 11 attacks in the US and the invasion of Iraq, Blair called Brown his rival, colleague and successor and went into detail on "the Gordon problem - the combination of the brilliant and the impossible".

Blair is much warmer about former US President George W. Bush, calling him intelligent, "a true idealist" and a man of integrity.

Labour Party won three straight general elections under Blair but lost power in May under Brown, who had been finance minister throughout Blair's decade in office from 1997.

While acknowledging Brown's strengths, his succession was "unwise because it was never going to work," Blair wrote, adding he lacked the political instinct "at the human gut level".

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

"It is easy to say now, in the light of his tenure as prime minister, that I should have stopped it; at the time that would have been well nigh impossible," Blair wrote in the book which took him three years to write. At the same time, Blair said "he was also strong, capable and brilliant" and those were qualities for which he never lost respect.

He said his party has lost power through abandoning his "New Labour" centrist, modernising approach..

Unless Brown defined himself thus, his premiership "was going to be a disaster. I knew it," Blair said.

Blair also wrote about his "anguish" over the Iraq war, but says still thought it was right to invade and topple Saddam Hussein in the 2003 invasion.

"I ... Regret with every fiber of my being the loss of those who died."

"Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it," he says.

But, he adds, "on the basis of what we do know now, I still believe that leaving Saddam in power was a bigger risk to our security than removing him and that, terrible though the aftermath was, the reality of Saddam and his sons in charge of Iraq would at least arguably be much worse."

"I can't regret the decision to go to war," he says.

Blair also says drink became a prop which helped him relax, although it was not "excessive."

The Labour leader said he drank "a whisky or a gin and tonic before dinner, then one or two glasses of wine." Blair said that while he believed he controlled his intake, he had been aware that drink was becoming " a support."
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