Politics: `You Can't Have Two Prime Ministers.' How Blair Puts Brown in His Place

By Grice, Andrew | The Independent (London, England), November 1, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Politics: `You Can't Have Two Prime Ministers.' How Blair Puts Brown in His Place


Grice, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)


TONY BLAIR issued a pointed reminder that he was the Prime Minister and Gordon Brown was not when the two men tried to patch up their differences over dinner last week, close allies of Mr Blair say.

He adopted a conciliatory tone during last Thursday's dinner and acknowledged the Chancellor's special status in the Government.

But he said Mr Brown would have to accept No 10's view would prevail when the two men differed. One Blair aide said: "He made clear he was prepared to embrace any reasonable point of view held by Gordon, but if they disagreed, Gordon would have to accept that he was Prime Minister. His message was that you can't have two Prime Ministers."

The dinner was hosted by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, in his flat in Admiralty House, Whitehall. It was arranged two or three weeks before Mr Brown publicly criticised Mr Blair for the first time last week over his refusal to give the Chancellor a seat on Labour's national executive committee (NEC).

Before the dinner, Mr Prescott urged Mr Blair to settle for a "quiet life" by giving Mr Brown a place on the NEC, from which he stood down in 1997. But the Prime Minister refused, saying he wanted Douglas Alexander, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of Labour's general election planning, to remain on the NEC.

Mr Prescott, who warned both men their public feud was damaging the Government, was apparently upset by Mr Brown's public criticism, and by his decision to tell a TV interviewer he was having dinner with Mr Blair, which fuelled media reports of their rift.

The truce agreed by Mr Blair and Mr Brown over dinner was under pressure yesterday. Charlie Whelan, the Chancellor's former press secretary, accused Mr Blair of being "ungrateful" and trying to "humiliate" Mr Brown by denying him an NEC seat.

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