Opinion: Anthony Minghella's film fools nobody

After this week's 'Tony and Gordon - The Movie', the person I feel most sorry for is not Alan Milburn, whose original campaign strategy has been officially dumped, but Anthony Minghella, who had to make the film.

Having been involved in similar PR stunts, I admit that the Oscar-winning director made a better fist of it than I ever did, but it still doesn't really fool anyone.

No one has ever captured on film the real relationship between these political heavyweights. Their body language is usually terrible, as it was last week when the PM announced that Brown would remain Chancellor after the election.

For Blair, it was all supposed to be so different. The strategy was to bring in Milburn to run the election, and dump Brown after another landslide triumph. Hence it wasn't long before we read that the PM was planning to move his Chancellor to the Foreign Office. It was argued that Brown would accept this because he wouldn't be able to fight for his future leadership from the back benches. But Brown and his allies made it abundantly clear that this would not stop him for one second.

Nevertheless, the turning point came with the opinion polls and focus groups, analysed for Blair by Philip - now Lord - Gould. Although Brown and his team have never trusted Gould, they have every reason to thank him, because his conclusion was enough for Blair to bring his old mate back, promise him his job in the Treasury, and run the campaign on his terms. The problem was that by now, trust between the two had broken down completely.

In the good old days, when they weren't on speaking terms, Alastair Campbell was the one to act as an intermediary, and so it was he who went to see Brown in Scotland over Easter.

Campbell knew that one question would dominate every Blair election interview - would Brown remain Chancellor after the election? So it was agreed that the only way out was to deal with the matter at the first formal press conference. Blair knew there was only one answer he could give if he wanted to win the election.

Even then he couldn't quite bring himself to answer a straight 'yes', but in the murky world of Westminster spin and double-speak, it has become clear that Brown will eventually take over from Blair.

The irony is that Lord Saatchi secretly briefed journalists last year that 'Vote Blair get Brown' would be the Tories' campaign strategy. Little did he realise it was ultimately destined to be Labour's.

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