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Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution Series Premiere Mon 4 Oct on BBC Two

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They have been out of power for over a decade, rejected by the electorate and left in the political wilderness, but the phenomenon that was New Labour still stirs strong emotions. New five part documentary series Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution tells the full story.

Their political decisions disillusioned the left and infuriated the right, and their legacy is shrouded in argument and anger. Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and their close political allies such as Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, John Prescott, Patricia Hewitt and Jack Straw, transformed our politics and shaped the direction of the country as we entered the 21st century.

From the makers of the critically acclaimed Thatcher: A Very British Revolution, this series will unravel the enigma of New Labour, examining the careers of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and exploring how they and their highly driven and disciplined cadre of political allies seized control of the Labour Party, and then the country.

As we try to navigate our fractured, divided political landscape it is time to re-evaluate New Labour, a political idea that for a moment in the late 90s seemed to be able to unite the country and capture a sense of shared optimism.

This five-part series offers an intimate portrait of the two powerful personalities at the heart of a political phenomenon, charting their leadership of the country through a tumultuous period of war and peace, terror and national trauma, and exploring their controversial political legacies and the emotional fault lines that ran through their years in charge in Britain.

From idealistic political hopefuls to battle-scarred political veterans – this is their story.

The series begins in 1983. Labour has just faced a savage election defeat, receiving only 27.6 percent of the vote. While the party mourns, two young Labour MPs enter Parliament for the first time. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown come from very different backgrounds, but they share the same burning ambition: to make Labour electable again.

Gordon Brown was the senior of the pair. His understanding of the economy quickly caught the eye of Labour’s new leader Neil Kinnock. Meanwhile Tony Blair came from a public school background, studied law at Oxford and never imagined himself in the world of politics. Working in the same tiny office at Labour HQ, Brown took Blair under his wing and taught him how to become a politician. Blair’s natural gift for presentation shone through; he and Brown were soon rising up through the ranks of the Labour party and, with the help of Labour’s Communications chief Peter Mandelson, started to tout their modernising agenda.

By 1992, Labour had suffered two more election defeats. Neil Kinnock was forced to step down and Shadow Chancellor John Smith took his place. Tony Blair was restless – he didn’t think John Smith was radical enough to get Labour into power. Blair had wanted Gordon Brown to challenge Smith for the leadership, but Brown had remained loyal to his old boss at the Treasury.

Two years later, John Smith suddenly and tragically passed away from a heart attack. Brown assumed that he, as Shadow Chancellor, would be the natural successor but Blair had other ideas. After a series of furtive meetings, Brown promised to stand aside – but only after he had come to agreement that he would succeed Blair as leader.

The episode ends in 1994. Blair wins the party leadership by a huge majority, becoming the youngest leader the Labour party has ever had. Once friends and political soulmates, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are now Shadow Chancellor and Opposition Leader. Their shared ambition to get Labour into power remains as strong as ever, but the agreement between the pair hangs over the rest of their time in government.

In this episode* we hear from: Tony Blair, Shadow Home Secretary; Gordon Brown, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer; Neil Kinnock, Leader of the Labour Party; Peter Mandelson, Labour’s Director of Communications; Patricia Hewitt, Press Secretary to Neil Kinnock; Douglas Alexander, Parliamentary Researcher and Speechwriter for Gordon Brown; Anji Hunter, Research Assistant to Tony Blair; Tom Sawyer, Labour’s National Executive Committee; John Burton, Tony Blair’s Election Agent; Sue Nye, Political Secretary to Neil Kinnock; Tim Allan, Political Assistant to Tony Blair; Christopher Meyer, Deputy British Ambassador to the United States; Ed Balls, Economic Adviser to Gordon Brown; Peter Hyman, Political Strategist and Speechwriter for Tony Blair; Alastair Campbell, Labour’s Chief Press Secretary.

* Titles reflecting their role held at the time.

Airdate: Monday 4 October 2021 at 9.00pm on BBC Two.