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Brown As PM Was A Disaster, Writes Blair

London  : Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has branded his successor Gordon Brown's premiership as a "disaster" and said he was "desperately sorry" for deaths in the Iraq war. In a memoir that has
PTI September 01, 2010 14:33 IST
PTI
London  : Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has branded his successor Gordon Brown's premiership as a "disaster" and said he was "desperately sorry" for deaths in the Iraq war.

In a memoir that has become a best-seller even before its release, Blair said the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was "terrible" and that he had failed to predict "the nightmare it unfolded."

Tony Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007 said in his book titled 'A Journey' that he was desperately sorry over the deaths on all sides -- British soldiers, their allies, Iraqi civilians, diplomats and targets of random killings.

But he said, "He can't regret the decision to go to war" as it would have been a bigger risk to security, to leave the dictator Saddam Hussein in power than remove him.

Blair comes down heavily on his colleague-turned-rival Gordon Brown saying he (Brown) was overestimated by his party colleagues as prime minister. He said Brown's three years in office were a "disaster" and his succession was "unwise because it was never going to work."

Describing Brown as "maddening", "difficult" Blair said he wore him down with "relentless personal pressure as he chased the top job."

In extracts released to The Guardian in advance of publication, Blair says of Brown, "Political calculation, yes. Political feelings, no. Analytical intelligence, absolutely. Emotional intelligence, zero."

Answering questions as to why he didn't sack Brown, Blair said, "In the light of his (Brown's) tenure as prime minister, I should have stopped it: at that time that would have been well nigh impossible."

Saying Brown had become "impossible" and standard bearer of dissent in the party, Blair said it was less damaging to keep him inside the circle than kick him out.

The former prime minister laid the blame for Labour's landslide general election defeat on Brown's change in strategy.

Asking himself why Labour lost, Blair replied: "The response, I fear, is obvious. It won as New Labour. It lost by ceasing to be that."

He said that Brown lacked political instinct 'at the human gut level' and described him as a "manipulative figure" who lost a winnable election by abandoning the principles of new Labour.

He describes Brown as a man with a significant power base within the party and media, a position which would have made it difficult to sack him as chancellor.

Blair said: "Was he difficult, at times maddening? Yes. But he was also strong, capable and brilliant, and those were qualities for which I never lost respect.

When it's said that I should have sacked him, or demoted him, this takes no account of the fact that had I done so, the party and the government would have been severely and immediately destabilised and his ascent to the office of prime minister would probably have been even faster."

In an interview to BBC Blair said his relationship with Brown was "frankly hard, going on impossible" but that "for large parts of the time we were in government, he was an immense source of strength".

He added that, when Brown was chancellor, "People maybe over-estimated his capacity to be prime minister" but then during "the last three years, when he was prime minister, people maybe underestimated his strengths".

The book covers key events such as the invasion of Iraq, the Northern Ireland peace process, and domestic reforms, besides his uneasy relationship with Brown, who succeeded him in 2007.

On the Iraq war, Blair writes that he was "desperately sorry" over the deaths an all sides, but he "can't regret the decision to go to war", and laid out a case for the conflict.

He writes: "I have often reflected as to whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether I may have been right."

He said he wept over the loss of life.

Referring to his critics, he wrote: "Do they really suppose I don't care, don't feel, don't regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died? Tears, though there have been many, do not encompass it". PTI