Over the years, it's been almost impossible to avoid the press speculation about the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Indeed, as coverage of the forthcoming local elections began this week, the media didn't even bother to feign interest in the elections, preferring instead to quiz a visibly irked Blair about his relationship with Brown.
In a sense this is fair enough. Although the local elections *should* be about local issues, which are important (no, really), who can say, hand on heart, that they find council tax interesting, or give a toss about wheelie bins? So it's not surprising that reporters are going to use any brief audience with Blair or Brown to ask something a bit more interesting.
Exactly what the two New Labour supremos think of each other is an issue that's been trundling along for years, but it's been given a little more piquancy by Blair's recent backtracking on his announcement that he'd hand over to Brown before the end of his tenure. According to Tony, he and Gordon are great mates who agree with each other most of the time, and have a highly
successful professional working relationship. However, the various smear campaigns involving Number 10 Downing Street and Number 11 suggest that Tony is being a little bit economical with the truth, hard to believe though that may be.
Which led us to speculate, what *is* the relationship between Blair and Brown really like? A few scenarios spring to mind...
POSSIBILITY 1: THEY REALLY ARE GOOD MATES...
Scene: The House of Commons bar
Tony Blair: Gordon, you know you mentioned you were looking for that out-of-print book by John Maynard Keynes?
Gordon Brown: Shit, Tone, you remembered that?
TB: Yeah, and I had a look on eBay and got you a copy from this bloke in Belgium.
GB: Brilliant! I've been looking for 'The Little Book of Supply Side Economics' for ages. How much do I owe you?
TB: Put your money away, mate. My treat. Anyway, is Sarah coming out for a drink? Lovely girl. If I wasn't married to Cherie.'
GB: Hey, watch it, tiger!
TB: Right, my round. Same again?
GB: Cheers. And can you get some crisps? Cheese and onion if they've got them.
This makes for a pleasing mental image, but somehow feels slightly wrong. It's not just the fact that both Blair and Brown are deeply ambitious politicians, it's the fact that Tony Blair wouldn't be seen with a pint in his hand unless it was a photo-opportunity designed to show what a regular guy he is. Which leads us to think that Blair and Brown's relationship is altogether more likely to be:
POSSIBILITY 2: THEY REALLY DO HATE EACH OTHER...
Scene: The cabinet office
TB: OK, item one: the budget. What shitty ideas have you come up with this time, bumface?
GB: Takes one to know one. Naaaaaaaaah!
TB: No, seriously, what's in the budget? Free money for everyone? A tax on squirrels? Subsidised air?
GB: Well there's something that'll affect you, speccy four-eyes. It's a tax on people called Tony who *bum their mum*.
TB: Oh don't be so immature, you big twat!
GB: There's only one twat around here, and you know how you spell 'twat'? You spell it T-O-N-Y-B-L-A-I-R.
TB: Right! You're dead!
GB: When you're hard enough, *wanker*.
(An ineffectual scuffle breaks out, including hair-pulling. Jack Straw and Ruth Kelly separate them, although other cabinet members are chanting 'FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!')
Here we're getting nearer the truth, but despite the juvenile nature of British politics we find it hard to believe that Tony and Gordon would stoop quite this low (although it's quite easy to visualise if you imagine Michael 'Fucking' Howard in the role of Gordon Brown.) We suspect that the following scenario is more likely:
POSSIBILITY 3: THEY EXIST IN AN EDWARD ALBEE-ESQUE WORLD OF DISPLACED TENSION...
TB: Gordon, about your plans for pensions -
GB: It's all in the document.
TB: Yes, I know, I just wanted to find out -
GB: Everything's in the document.
TB: - about the shortfall.
GB: It's in -
TB: I'm just saying -
GB: - the document.
TB: Well I've had a lot on recently -
GB: It's in -
TB: I've had a lot on recently which means I might not have read *every single word*.
GB: It's in -
TB: I KNOW ABOUT THE FUCKING DOCUMENT.
TB: Anyway, Tessa, what's the latest harebrained scheme from the Department of Culture?
Entertaining though it may be, the problem with this kind of speculation is that that's all it will ever be: speculation. Like 'Citizen Kane', we will probably never really know these two great men (well, one quite impressive one and one obvious twat). Both Blair and Brown are way too canny to ever blurt out 'I'll tell you the truth, he's a cunt', although it's doubtful whether either of them really think that. Journalists obviously love stirring, but Blair and Brown do seem to have a working, possibly friendly, professional relationship. The only problem for us, the increasingly cynical electorate, is that it's yet another reminder of what politics is about: careerism, not idealism.
Still, at least we've been spared a few Newsnight 'special reports' about the future of wheelie bins.