Comment: Labour needs to get over the TB-GBs

By Julia Hartley-Brewer

The Labour party is on its sickbed. It has, after a torrid election night last Thursday, pulled back the bedclothes, put its head under the duvet and refused to come out until it feels better.

But it's not just tiredness and humiliation which has left Labour bed-ridden, it's a long-standing malady which has proved immutable to every medicine that's been tried over the years. And the disease seems to be getting worse as the days tick by.

Yes, I'm afraid the Labour party has a bad case of the TB-GBs. It's a disease which has been well known at Westminster since 1997, but many millions more have since been exposed to the risk through tell-all political memoirs.

The TB-GBs, as the bitter internecine battles between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were famously dubbed, dominated the party's years in government right from the moment they first won in 1997.

Now the sickness looks set to infect the next Labour leadership election, an extraordinary eight years since the former left office.

The bitter Blair-Brown feud saw their rival teams of MPs, advisers and henchmen spend more of their time trying desperately to undermine each other than actually running the country. For both Blair and Brown, the real enemy was always the enemy within the Labour ranks.

Labour couldn't escape the malady during Blair's premiership and, even after Blair finally left office, handing No 10 over to his rival next door at No 11, the rancour continued as Blairites fought to keep the New Labour legacy alive.

Even after Brown lost the 2010 election and resigned, the disease clung on.

At the last leadership contest, it was a simple case not just of Miliband vs Miliband but of Blairites vs Brownites. Ed was the anointed son of Brown (if not perhaps his first choice) while David was the preferred son of Blair.

Today, five years on, the TB-GB infection remains as strong as ever. Instead of waning over the years, as many expected, the disease has got stronger still.

Like a cancer, it has spread through the vital organs of the Labour body politic ,with rival candidates lining up once again along Blairite-Brownite lines in a fight to the death over who controls the party. 

It's high time that the party throws off the duvet, takes its medicine and pulls itself together before Labour’s sickbed ends up being its deathbed.

Julia Hartley-Brewer is a journalist and broadcaster. She was previously a presenter on LBC radio and political editor of the Sunday Express. Click here to follow her on Twitter.

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