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Who wears the trousers - Blair or BrownThe Rivals Blair and Brown The Intimate Story of a Political Marriage by James Naughtie Fourth EstateA friend of mine from California was asking for the hardback edition of The Rivals in a bookshop a couple of months ago While I was gratified to see someone from so far away taking an interest in our domestic politics I suggested that the book may be a little hardcore that unless you were a bit of a politics wonk you would find the book tedious to the point of trauma I was wrong Its gripping That subtitle says it all rather better than the title although the title is true too Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are rivals and they are a married couple of long standing with all that implies There are huffs froideurs incidents that come perilously close to infidelity unfriendly teasing sulks window-rattling shouting matches - but at the same time there is loyalty puppy-like devotion anxiety as to what the other thinks Above all there is the obligation to put on a show of unity for everyone else even if no one is fooled - with the added complication that as is the case with some couples certain arguments are aired deliberately for public benefit Putting their relationship under the microscope as James Naughtie does is to display in miniature a drama of almost biblical resonance I was going to say Shakespearean but its closer to something from the Old Testament And at times a drama from the pages of the corniest agony column Blair is the boss says Naughtie but in emotional terms it is he who is more often the supplicant in the relationship A more antagonistic portrait might be painted by officials who witness the arguments the huffiness and the cold fury which from time to time each displays towards the other You begin to get the picture Were I to use a
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