Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Blair and Brown ditch leadership deal"

Delegates at Bournemouth enjoyed Channel 4's The Deal much more than Tony Blair's vacuous speech. The problem with him is that you don't quite believe he means it. I certainly don't believe him when he says that there was no deal between him and Gordon Brown over the leadership. Brown never denies there was a deal. When asked, he replies: "I never discuss private conversations with the PM." Blair just lies.

Of course, the real deal was that Blair would never stand against Brown for the Labour leadership. The day John Smith died, the shadow Chancellor told me to watch Peter Mandelson and the Sunday papers. No surprise that the Sunday Times splashed "Blair and Brown in secret pact not to stand against each other", spun to the gullible political editor by none other than Mandy. This was not a very subtle change to terms, and Brown was furious.

It is this, not some pathetic promise Blair made at a restaurant in Islington that Brown could take over from him after one and a half terms in office, that so upset Brown. Blair made the promise because he was still genuinely worried that Brown would stand against him. When I learnt of it, I fell about laughing.

The funniest line in Blair's conference speech was his boast about how wonderful he is for ensuring that workers now get a paltry £4.50 an hour. Brown always credits the introduction of the minimum wage to John Smith. After the 1992 election, Blair wanted to ditch the commitment - he had been kebabed by a hairdresser who claimed that she would have to sack her employees if Labour introduced a minimum wage. I know this to be true, because Mandelson told me.

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