Blair ditch project: New files reveal Gordon Brown's 'plot'

Gordon Brown ordered his allies to hatch a plot to remove Tony Blair weeks after leading the Labour Party to a third general election victory in a row, it was reported last night.

Current Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls began working against the then prime minister in mid-July 2005 on the instruction of Mr Brown, leaked letters and documents claim.

It is believed the plot, cod-named Project Vovlo, began less than a fortnight after the 7/7 bombings in London and the G8 summit at Gleneagles.

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The plot led Mr Blair to offer Mr Brown a deal to take over leadership of the party, but only if Mr Blair retained the "final decision" until the handover was completed. It is also claimed Mr Brown, who was chancellor at the time, demanded policy control beyond his office and a role in Cabinet reshuffles.

The cache of documents come from personal papers belonging to Mr Balls which were handed over to a London-based newspaper. They reveal Mr Brown passed his ally copies of his correspondence with Mr Blair.

Mr Brown is also believed to have used the Iraq War and a percieved perception that Mr Blair had lied to force Mr Blair's departure. "Shallow", "inconsistent" and "muddled" are some of the terms apparently used to describe Mr Blair as prime minister by his chancellor.

That came in response to a letter from Mr Blair in February 2006, setting out terms of a possible transition deal, it is claimed.

He wrote: "You need to be a candidate of continuity and change. The second will be relatively easy to do. A different person is, by its nature, change.

"The first, however, rests on a smooth transition.

"Critical to that is not merely the absence of disunity in the handover; it is also the visible, clear demonstration that the person who most embodies New Labour ie me, is working hand in hand with the successor.

"Whilst I remain PM, the final decision has to be mine; and that cannot provoke a breakdown. I will try, at all costs, to avoid disagreement, but there can't be a stalemate if that happens."

A small group of Mr Brown's closest allies formed a group to try to persuade members of the party, MPs and trade unions to support Mr Brown's leadership. The group included Mr Balls, Ed Miliband, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander - all now senior Labour figures - and some of Mr Brown's closest aides.

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Sarah Brown would also reportedly attempt to influence women within the party to support her husband.It is the first time documentary evidence, including Mr Brown's hand-writing, have been produced.

Mr Brown drafted terms of a deal, to be signed by Mr Blair, in which he wrote: "I propose the following: Across a wide range of area you (Brown] are put in charge of future working groups beyond economic policy so that Labour with you leading is seen as a party able to meet big challenges of the future."

The Labour Party sought to shrug off the revelations last night. A senior party source said: "This is ancient history. We are a party looking to the future."