Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BLAIR: I WON'T SACK GORDON'; His Record Is Fantastic. I Want That to Continue'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BLAIR: I WON'T SACK GORDON'; His Record Is Fantastic. I Want That to Continue'

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

TONY BLAIR today dramatically declared that Gordon Brown's job as Chancellor is safe.

The move ended months of gossip that Mr Brown faced the sack in a post-election reshuffle after the pair's relationship deteriorated.

Mr Blair's comments came before they staged a show of unity at a press conference in which a beaming Mr Brown spoke of his delight.

Speaking in a GMTV interview earlier, Mr Blair praised his colleague's economic achievements and said his reign at the Treasury should continue.

"Whatever speculation is in the papers, we work pretty closely together," he said. "He's done a fantastic job managing the economy.

"You never end up deciding the Government, particularly when you haven't won the election. But I think his record speaks for itself so you would want that record to continue, really."

Mr Blair's stance marked a clear change in his public position. Allies of the Prime Minister mounted a whispering campaign suggesting Mr Brown would be moved to the Foreign Office after the election and fired if he refused.

Mr Blair was said to be determined to break up the Chancellor's power base at the Treasury which he has used to gain sweeping influence across Whitehall.

Questioned about the high-level rumours at a No10 press conference in January, Mr Blair refused to confirm that Mr Brown would stay on to the fury of the Chancellor's supporters who saw his silence as a hostile act.

Relations between the pair hit their lowest point in February amid anger over a biography of Mr Brown. It quoted him as telling the Prime Minister after Mr Blair changed his mind about taking early retirement after the Iraq war: "There is nothing that you could say to me now that I could ever believe."

During the worst of the tensions, Labour MPs rounded on Mr Blair and Mr Brown at a meeting, telling them to sack "poisonous" allies stirring the row. …

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