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5 April 2023

Succession’s sly allusion to New Labour’s very own succession

In the latest episode, Shiv Roy appears to echo Gordon Brown’s cry of betrayal at Tony Blair.

By The Chatterer

Like anybody else, the Chatterer enjoys a good theory about how real-world events might have inspired scenes in Succession, the HBO business drama whose lead character is Logan Roy, an ageing billionaire who is definitely not based on Rupert Murdoch.

Hat tip, therefore, to Damian McBride, a former special adviser to Gordon Brown when he was prime minister, who identified a corker of a reference to mid-Noughties British politics this week.

No spoilers, but suffice to say this week’s episode (the second of series four) contained a scene in which Roy’s daughter, Shiv, tells him: “There’s nothing you could say to me now that I would ever believe.” McBride wondered whether this quote might have been inspired by a near-identical comment attributed to Brown when the former chancellor was in the middle of his own succession drama.

The story goes that Tony Blair, when prime minister, repeatedly reneged on promises to Brown that he would resign from No 10. According to Robert Peston’s 2005 book, Brown’s Britain, the exasperated chancellor eventually told Blair: “There is nothing that you could ever say to me now that I could ever believe.”

Coincidence? McBride suggests not. In a tweet, he noted that Jesse Armstrong, the British creator behind Succession, had form for including references to the relationship between Brown and Blair in his previous hit, Peep Show.

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The Chatterer will be on high alert for future Blair-Brown allusions.

[See also: Gordon Brown: Why it’s time to take the shame out of the cost-of-living crisis]

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