Tony Blair finally reveals 'the truth' about the Granita pact with Gordon Brown
And says he was a radical socialist.. until he met Cherie.
Tony Blair has spilled the beans on his "very close" relations with Gordon Brown and his little-known left wing past.
In a candid interview with historian Peter Hennessy on BBC Radio 4, the former prime minister was pressed on the so-called Granita pact with Brown.
New Labour legend has it that the pair used a dinner in the Islington restaurant to strike a deal over the succession to the Labour leadership. But Blair said that the key discussion took place in Edinburgh before the Granita meeting in May 1994.
“Well, the truth is it wasn’t in Granita restaurant. We did have a dinner in the Granita, but by then we’d already decided what we were going to do," he told the told the Reflections With Peter Hennessy programme
"The actual conversation, I think took place in a couple of different places in Edinburgh.”
“One was definitely at a friend of mine’s, an old school friend of mine’s house. And in fact I think both of them were at two different old school friend of mine’s houses…. So we had a conversation going – I mean, it was going on all the time about how we would resolve the question of which one went forward.”
Asked how the issue was resolved, Blair said: “The crucial bit was who had the best chance of winning, I think, for the country… And, you know, to be fair to him he accepted that in the end, and it was extremely difficult for him.
“And you know, it’s very hard to understand this properly now. I mean, we were so close. We would speak to each other several times a day. So this was a very close political relationship, personal relationship.
“He taught me an immense amount, Gordon. I mean, he taught me how to make a speech, for a start. You know, I remember the very first time I had to get up and address the Labour Party conference… I showed him my speech, which was, you know, written by a – a lawyer. I mean, it was a very, if I may say so, very intelligent analysis of what was wrong with Conservative employment law and how we were going to change it. But in terms of a conference speech it plainly didn’t work.
"And he said to me, ‘oh my god, you can’t say this, it’s ridiculous.’ And then literally sat down and wrote out the first opening lines. And I remember thinking well, he knows more about it than me so I’m just going to go and give it, and then being absolutely astonished at the extraordinary reaction I got from the conference. And after that I thought, yeah, well that’s obviously the way to do it.”
Elsewhere in the programme, Blair told Hennessy how he had dabbled in Marxism and relished reading about Trotsky while at university.
“My politics was of the more communitarian sort, and it was based on a sort of philosophical position in relation to the world rather than, even though I’d sort of toyed with Marxism, as everyone did at the time. The attraction for me was never really profound.
“The attraction – the first political book I ever read, by the way - was Isaac Deutcher’s trilogy of Trotsky… I literally didn’t stop reading it all night. And I suddenly – it just gave me a completely – it opened a different world to me. I suddenly thought, the world’s full of these extraordinary causes and injustices and, here’s this – this – this guy Trotsky who was so inspired by all of this that he went out to create a Russian revolution and change the world. I – I think it’s a very, very odd thing, just literally it was like a light going on.
“And even though, you know, over time I obviously left that side of politics behind, the – the notion of having a cause and a purpose and one bigger than yourself or your own ambition, and I think probably allied at the same time to coming to religious faith, that changed my life in that – in that period.”
Blair then said that his wife Cherie, who he met at university, was deeply unimpressed with his socialist leanings. Asked if she had steered him towards more mainstream Labour politics, the former prime minister was unequivocal.
“Yes. The great thing about Cherie is that she’s literally never changed her politics from the first time I met her,” he said.
“She’d complete contempt for the far left then, which was an unusual position for young people, because she’d been brought up in a working class part of Liverpool and realised you actually needed people to govern and govern sensibly to improve people’s lives.
“And yet, she was absolutely, you know, she would rather have given up the ghost than vote Tory. So she was a sort of mainstream Labour person then and remained that literally all the way through.
“And that was influential because obviously when we started going out together she was extremely critical of what she regarded as my sort of Oxford student socialism. So she made that very clear.”
Picture by Press Association.