Analysis: Papers are the first rough draft of history - yet they read more like the storyline of a 'black ops' television series

Walking through the Commons during the week of the coup that failed to dislodge Tony Blair, I bumped into leading Labour backbencher and thinker Jon Cruddas. He chuckled: "It's like some black ops from an episode of 24. Suddenly die-hard Blairites like Sion Simon and Chris Bryant tear off their rubberised face-masks to reveal that underneath they have been Brownites all along."

Of course, in No 10 we knew this wasn't an operation that only had a 24-hour time-span. It had been going on day-in, day-out since the general election in 2005.

To political insiders this is no secret. The scale and the constancy of the No 11 operation against Tony has been well known for years. And for anyone interested in the whole gory story there have been a string of books over the few years that have set out in detail the whole appalling story.

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One prominent Labour insider well described reading too many of these accounts as akin to being repeatedly punched in the stomach. And there is something deeply depressing about being taken back to that time. But the cache of papers from the office of Ed Balls that have been published are still of genuine interest.

The memos by senior politicians and their advisers - together with their annotations - are the first rough draft of history. Part of the fascination is seeing what we know as a finished story in the raw, as it happens in real time. Ed Balls's memos are in many ways the least interesting - though close students of the annotations will be amused, if not surprised by names that appear.

He was always central to Gordon Brown's operation and is a proper political hard-man. Every team needs one. The revealing thing is how early the leadership campaign was being mustered - within months of a general election in which Blair said he would serve a full third term. With the ink not dry on the mandate an operation was in full swing. And the sheer amount of polling that was being done on behalf of the Brown office. This was no tentative feint, it was an assumption that power was there to be assumed.

But for me, the real revelation is just how clear-headed an analysis Gordon Brown made in his own memos. He saw the dangers of Cameron's "bridge" to the left through environmentalism and the voluntary sector - and he sought to block that off. Brown outlines the need for cuts in public spending, and the need for tax cuts targeted at business.

He talks about renewing New Labour - he is the continuity - and says this task will be as brutal as establishing New Labour. His policy agenda is radical, and reminiscent of Cameron's - a Bill of Rights, mobilising the coalition behind 'Make Poverty History' to support action on the environment, tackling the sexualisation of culture.Perhaps this is the most tragic revelation - if Gordon had stuck to policies like these he could have been a truly New Labour prime minister.

Does it tell us anything about the future? It's notable that Ed Miliband is a bit player in this operation, so it doesn't tell us much about his character. It reinforces how damaging it was for Labour that its two most senior figures were at such loggerheads for so long.

No wonder the public has no idea what the last Labour government was about - it was so focused on an internal struggle. The least sexy, but most important memos, are the ones by pollster Stan Greenberg on Labour's lost voters. Still worth Ed Miliband reading today.