Blair & Brown: The New Labour Revolution (BBC Two)


Distinguished Member
Following Thatcher: A Very British Revolution, is this new five part series, coming very soon ...
They have been out of power for over a decade, rejected by the electorate and effectively ejected from their own party but the political phenomenon that was New Labour still stirs strong emotions. Their political decisions disillusioned the left and infuriated the right, their legacy is shrouded in argument and anger. Prime Minister Tony Blair and political heavyweights such as Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell, John Prescott transformed our politics and shaped the direction of the country as we entered the 21st century.

This series will attempt to unravel New Labour, understand the motivations and methods of the highly driven and disciplined cadre who 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 90’s seemed to be able to unite the country and capture a sense of shared optimism.

This five part series will offer an intimate portrait of New Labour, charting their leadership of the country through a tumultuous period of war and peace, terror and national trauma and exploring their controversial political legacy and the powerful personalities and emotional fault lines that ran through their years in charge in Britain.

From idealistic political hopefuls to battle scarred political veterans - this is the journey of New Labour.

Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two, says: “Thatcher: A Very British Revolution was an exceptional piece of television, exploring in minute detail and with vivid colour the life of the dominant political figure of her age. I am delighted that Steve Condie and his brilliant team are now embarking on this new documentary project, charting the rise and fall of the New Labour project which became synonymous with the subsequent decades.”

Steve Condie, Executive Producer, BBC Studios, says: “This is a great opportunity to examine the big characters who led New Labour through a politically seismic era, to understand their dramatic personal experiences, examine what they believed in and reveal how they shaped the country we live in today.”

New Labour (w/t), a 5x60’ series, is made by BBC Studios Documentary Unit. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Simon Young, Commissioning Editor, History. The Executive Producer for BBC Studios is Steve Condie.


Distinguished Member
Starts on Monday 4th October at 9pm on BBC2
- when the whole 5-part series will be streaming on iPlayer

Episode pages are now up, with the synopses ...

The series begins in 1983. Labour has just faced a savage election defeat, receiving only 27.6% 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.

A landslide victory puts the Labour party back into power after nearly two decades. Tony Blair, who had never previously held a Cabinet position, is now Prime Minister. A steep and daunting learning curve lays ahead of him. As he grapples with the vast Government machine, Gordon Brown hits the ground running. His first move as Chancellor is to make the Bank of England independent – a seismic change that Brown announces in his first days in office. The message was clear: Gordon Brown was going to end years of Tory ‘boom and bust’ and transform Labour’s economic reputation.

By the Autumn of 1997, Tony Blair had made significant inroads in Northern Ireland and was working towards an unprecedented peace agreement. He was in tune with the public’s outpouring of grief after the tragic death of Princess Diana. Just a few months into their first term, Prime Minister and Chancellor had introduced Britain to a new type of politics. They were in the process of transforming the country.

But as their popularity ratings soar, cracks start to appear from within the New Labour operation. The teams at No. 10 and No .11 – fiercely loyal to their respective leaders – begin to turn on each other. When Brown’s press secretary Charlie Whelan is blamed for leaking a story about Blair’s long-time ally Peter Mandelson, both Whelan and Mandelson are forced to resign. It is a major blow to the slick New Labour brand. Blair and Brown have lost a lieutenant each, and political rivalries within the party start to turn personal. Press and public interest in the party’s relationship dynamic will haunt them for years to come.

Millennium celebrations are tempered by a feeling across the country that New Labour haven’t yet delivered what they promised when they first came to power in 1997. Prime Minister Tony Blair decides to regroup and refocus. He turns his attention to public services, aiming to put choice at the heart of reform and stepping firmly outside of the Old Labour tradition.

As Tony Blair pushes for radical reform, Gordon Brown’s focus is on poverty and inequality with large increases in child benefits and NHS spending. But with No. 10 and No. 11 acting as two distinct centres of power, tensions between each of their camps – the Brownites and the Blairites – were rising. Blair’s vision of a New Labour for a 21st-century Britain seems to drift further from Brown’s more traditional Labour values.

Midway through its first term in power, New Labour faces a rocky period. A bumpy speech to the Women’s Institute, criticism over the Millennium Dome and a national fuel crisis test the popularity of the Prime Minister, and cast shadows of doubt over his ability to achieve a second election victory. To make matters worse, Peter Mandelson is embroiled in yet another media frenzy. With Tony Blair’s first re-election looming, he and his team decide that Peter has to go.

Despite tensions and ideological differences between Prime Minister and Chancellor, New Labour is re-elected by a landslide in 2001– marking the first time Labour would ever serve a consecutive full term in its 100-year history. But as Blair and Brown move into their second term in power, the question of leadership and succession quickly starts to dominate.

Following the catastrophic terror attacks on 11th September 2001, Tony Blair flies to the U.S. and promises to stand beside them no matter what. Blair and his team keep America focused on Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda – the terror group responsible for the attacks – and its leader Osama Bin Laden are based. But soon the Pentagon begins to shift military resources away from Afghanistan and towards Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which has become a chief threat in George Bush’s ‘War on Terror’.

Over the following months, Tony Blair fulfils his promise to stand by America while also trying to persuade President Bush to seek U.N. backing on the Iraq conflict. At the same time, the Prime Minister faces huge criticism from the British public and Parliament for supporting America’s ambition to topple Saddam Hussein. Some of his most vocal critics are from his own party. But Blair is convinced of the evils of Hussein’s dictatorship, commits himself to defending Western democracy and values.

In March 2003, Blair defeats a Commons anti-war vote with a majority of 179. It is the final obstacle to UK involvement in the war with Iraq. We chart the fallout of British Intelligence reports suggesting the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and New Labour’s decision to publicise those findings – leading to a media frenzy and, some months later, to the tragic death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly. After the resignation of Blair’s closest ally and defender, Alastair Campbell, he is more exposed than ever as members of his own party continue to speak out against him.

The conflict begins in May 2003, quickly displacing Saddam Hussein and toppling his empire. But celebrations turn into violence when sectarian tensions begin to flare up. We hear Tony Blair and his ministers reflect on the war, defending their decisions and voicing regrets at the handling of the aftermath.

In 2005, Labour’s General Election campaign was fought against the backdrop of the Iraq war. Tony Blair and New Labour are in a precarious position. Popularity ratings are low and, to top it off, the relationship between Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown has hit rock bottom. In order to win a third term in office, they agree to put their differences aside and form a united front.

The display of unity works and New Labour wins for a third time. But a new question looms over the government. Tony Blair had agreed with Gordon Brown that he wouldn’t serve a full third term as Prime Minister. As Brown’s allies press the Prime Minister for a departure date, Blair has a change of heart. He felt that more needed to be done before he could step aside, and he wasn’t convinced that Brown would fulfil New Labour’s modernising agenda. To Brown’s surprise and frustration, Blair tells the press he will be staying on as leader.

The “coup” that follows was a bubbling over of tensions within the Labour government. Blair had lost the support of many Labour MPs over Iraq, and the apparent U-turn over his departure sparked outrage among the Brownites who felt it was high time for Blair to go.

After being pushed into announcing a departure date, Tony Blair steps down as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007. Gordon Brown is finally able to take the reins. But leading the country is very different to leading the Treasury, and a series of crises put the dampeners on any agenda Brown had wanted to put forward. His popularity dives further when he fails to call an election. Then, just months after taking office, a global financial crash threatens to destroy economies across the world.

We tell the story of how Gordon Brown reacted to the economic crisis, bringing together world leaders and trying to save the global economy. Despite this, the public turn against the Brown government and in 2010, after 13 years in power, New Labour is finally forced out of office.



Distinguished Member
The whole series is now streaming on iPlayer for 11 months


Distinguished Member
Just watched the whole series. Very well researched, written and produced and as much as I hate to say this a very good BBC political doc.
Gordon Brown was never going to get his first elected victory as pm simply because TB was a hard act to follow, at least in charisma but what he did at the end of his tenure as pm during the global crisis was brilliant in my opinion. Just a shame that in the annals of history he will be considered a failure because he never won the vote on his own and consequently that ended the new Labour project. A decent man with a very sharp mind who comes across as a fairly tragic character in this. Shocjed at how aged Blair is looking now.

The latest video from AVForums

AVForums Movies Podcast: Streaming Theatrical Releases And The Future Of Cinema
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom