Blair v Brown, chapter 94

General Sir Richard Dannatt says Tony Blair lacked the “courage” to deal with Gordon Brown.

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Hot on the heels of Tony Blair's memoirs come those of General Sir Richard Dannatt, serialised today in the Sunday Telegraph. And the way the paper presents it, his story's principal interest is as a footnote to the Blair-Brown psychodrama.

Dannatt accuses Gordon Brown, as chancellor of the Exchequer, of hobbling the Strategic Defence Review and thereby placing the expeditions to Afghanistan and Iraq "under impossible operational pressures". As for Blair, Dannatt indicts him for cowardice and not standing up to his chancellor:

[Mr Blair] lacked the moral courage to impose his will on his own chancellor . . . To me it seems extraordinary that the prime minister, the number-one guy, cannot crack the whip sufficiently to his very close friend apparently, his next-door neighbour, the chancellor.

When it comes to "moral courage", Dannatt, who advised the Conservatives on defence matters before the general election, thinks Blair compares unfavourably with Margaret Thatcher:

In the war cabinet that Margaret Thatcher put together in 1982 [during the Falklands conflict] there was no one from the Treasury. It's tough to criticise lack of moral courage, but moral courage is what you need. Physical courage is a wonderful thing, but moral courage is actually doing the right thing at the right time.

Jonathan Derbyshire is executive opinion editor of the Financial Times. He was formerly managing editor of Prospect and culture editor of the New Statesman.

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