EXCLUSIVE: Blair refuses to confirm that he’s backing Brown

EXCLUSIVE: Blair refuses to confirm that he’s backing Brown

    Is Tony going back on Wednesday’s apparent endorsement?

The extraordinary saga that is the Labour succession will take a new turn on Sunday when the Observer will publish a report of an interview with the Prime Minister in which he refuses to confirm that the “big fist” he threatened Tory leader David Cameron with in the Queen’s speech debate was a reference to the Chancellor.

    In an interview that took place yesterday for Sunday’s Observer he was pressed to offer formal endorsement of Gordon Brown but refused – a move that could send the Labour leadership betting into confusion.

For the PM’s statement in Wednesday’s debate was widely seen as an endorsement resulting in a big rush to be on Brown. The price moved from 0.27.1 to 0.22.1 in a couple of hours.

According to the report when “…asked to confirm that he had had Brown in mind in making the remarks, Blair said: “I’ve decided to say nothing about it … People will always interpret these things. But I think I have said all I want to say on it for the moment.”

To add to the confusion Blair refusal’s followed a statement to the BBC by Labour party chair, Hazel Blears, that Tony’s Commons reference “was talking about the chancellor of the exchequer”.

According to this morning’s Telegraph there’s disagreement in the Cabinet over whether what Tony did was in fact an endorsement. The Observer story will only add to the confusion.

Checking the video of Wednesday’s Commons encounter and it’s clear that what he was saying was impromptu and designed to put Cameron down rather than indicate any view on his choice of successor. (It is after 1 hour and 23 minutes on this clip.) As Blair sits he gets a pat on the back from Brown which he ignores and there is absolutely no eye contact.

  • The news of the Observer interview does not appear to be in any of the papers this morning and it’s is likely that the paper is holding it until Sunday. I picked it up yesterday evening just as the developments in the honours probe were coming out. It was on an RSS feed from the Guardian Unlimited site but overnight the link has been removed. The story itself is still there.
  • Mike Smithson

    Comments are closed.