Review: Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution was an enthralling view of how a new hope turned into a Greek tragedy

In May 1997, life seemed rosy – I was moving into a new flat, I’d just started a new job in London, and new Labour had just won a landslide over John Major’s stultifying, sleaze-ridden, grey-suited Conservatives.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 5:00 pm

And as the first episode of Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution (BBC2, Mon, 9pm) reminded us, everything on that sunny May 2 – as the results were announced and Michael Portillo was left with nothing to do but root out his old train timetables – seemed light and optimistic. The change the Labour Party had been going through since the disastrous election of 1983, slowly at first under Neil Kinnock, and then at breakneck speed under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, had culminated in a government which promised so much.

As does this four-part documentary, which allows all the main players the chance to speak, unmediated by narration or presenter. Blair and Brown are there, of course, as are Peter Mandelson, Patricia Hewitt, and Alistair Campbell, as well as many other civil servants and party apparatchiks.

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This is how Lancashire looked in 1997

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The subjects of a new BBC series Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution pictured at a 1997 election campaign press conference (Johnny Eggitt/AFP/Getty)

By the second episode, it’s beginning to look like a Greek tragedy; these two brilliant men, thrown together by fate and a shortage of Parliamentary office space, doomed to be riven apart by jealousy and ambition, with the hangers-on acting as the chorus.

Eventually, the Labour government – and my ‘wonderful’ new job – ended in disappointment and dashed hopes. This terrific series looks like avoiding that fate.

Along with many others, it seems, I’ve started watching Squid Game (Netflix) and I’m not sure what the fuss is about. I’ve heard episode six is the best, but I’m on Ep.3 and I’m not sure I can wait that long.

The Hairy Bikers Go North (BBC2, Thurs, 8pm) was the TV equivalent of comfort eating, as the hirsute Harley handlers trekked through the Lakes, eating lovely stuff. A break from everyday stress.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was interviewed for a new BBC documentary series called Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution
Tony Blair's successor as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was also interviewed in the new BBC series Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution