The Deal (2003)
Director: Stephen Frears.
Starring: Michael Sheen (Tony Blair), David Morrissey (Gordon Brown), Frank Kelly (John Smith), Elizabeth Berrington (Cherie Blair), Paul Rhys (Peter Mandelson), Dexter Fletcher (Charlie Whelan), Glenna Morrison (Anji Hunter), Matt Blair (Ed Balls).
nasty fight between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labor Party of Great Britain
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
May 31, 1994. Tony Blair calls Gordon Brown on the phone. Blair wants them to meet. He suggests his favorite restaurant Granita in Islington.
Tony arrives at the restaurant. He sees an article in the newspaper: "Crunch time for close friends."
Flashback.Twelve years earlier. Margaret Thatcher gets off a helicopter. She makes a campaign speech.
Gordon Brown overwhelming wins the election to be the new member for Dunfermline East for the Labor Party.
The Conservative Party wins the election. Labor leader, Mr. Foot, calls it a tragedy. His party seems to agree because there is mounting pressure for him to resign after the partyís disastrous performance.
Gordon settles into his new office. Mr. John Smith comes to him and tells him he wants him to share the office with a bright, young lawyer from Sedgefield. He brings in Tony Blair. The two office mates shake hands.
Tony tells Gordon that Dave Nellist and his radical friends were responsible to the party's disastrous defeat. He believes the Labor Party has only eighteen more months to live unless it modernizes. Brown doesnít quite know what to make of this Tony Blair fellow. But he does congratulate him on his wife expecting a baby.
Blair tells Brown to keep his first speech very short. He shows up to hear Blairís first speech which is a rousing denunciation of Thatcherism. The speech is a rousing success. Mr. Smith kids him saying: the better the maiden speech, the longer the obscurity for the politician.
A couple of guys ask Brown about the Tory. Which one? Brown asks. The one sharing the office with him. Brown, however, sticks up for Tony saying heís bright and has some good ideas.
Neil Kinnock is elected as leader of the Labor Party. He promises never to have a repeat of the disastrous election of June 10, 1983.
Tony and Gordon gang up on the government to make themselves a nuisance. They make a good team taking turns hammering the government bills. After the meeting Peter Mandelson, aide to Brown, congratulates both men on their superb performances.
Neil makes the two the second youngest front bench spokesmen ever. Tony accepts, but Gordon rejects the offer. He says the position is a dead-end.
Back to the present.His assistants tells Gordon that they better get going.
Flashback. June 1987.Margaret Thatcher wins again. And itís the third successive defeat for Labor. Neil has made John Smith his Shadow Chancellor. And Gordon is Johnís number two. Tony congratulates him and Gordon says he (Tony) was very close to getting a promotion himself.
Gordon tells Tony that he wants to get under Lawsonís skin. (Nigel Lawson, MP, is the Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
Gordon refuses to talk to Tony about his private life. Tony knows that Marian lives in Glasgow and he asks Gordon if she would ever consider moving down to London? Gordon wonít even answer him. He then admits to Tony that he doesnít find discussing these kinds of things easy.
The two men walk and talk about their futures. Tony says that only one of them can make it all the way. Gordon says he will make sure that Tony goes as far as he goes.
The news is that the Shadow Chancellor John Smith has suffered a heart attack. He now is recovering at Edinburgh Infirmary. Neil is both devastated and panicking.
November 1990.Thatcher says they are leaving Downing Street for the last time after eleven and a half wonderful years. She is deeply shocked that after three election victories and a clear, though insufficient majority in the first ballot, she was rewarded with the sack.
Gordon tells Tony: "Now itís our time."
April 1992.Labor Party rally. Neil Kinnock is running to be the Prime Minister. But the Tories win again even if it was a closer election. Tony tells Gordon that he doesnít know if he has four more years of opposition in him.
Gordon and his aide Peter come to Tonyís house to talk about what they should do. Tony suggests that Gordon stand for the leadership of the Labor Party with him (Tony) as his deputy. But Gordon doesnít want to run against John Smith. Gordon and Peter leave. On the train Peter suggests that Tony run for the leadership of the party.
John Smith wins the leadership of the party with Margaret Beckett as his deputy leader.
February 1993. The news is about the murder of little James Bulger. Tony speaks out for the need for effective ways to fight and control crime.
Gordon is getting very impatient over nothing much happening to modernize the Labor Party. This come to the notice of his mentor John Smith. John tells him he might endorse Tony over him to be his successor. Gordon canít believe it. He says Tonyís just a blow-in to the Labor Party. And besides, there was always an understanding between he and Tony that he (Gordon) would be the successor. Smith tells Gordon he had better make sure this understanding is still valid. He says Tony is very popular and he was good on this Bulger thing, tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.
Gordon gets the bad news that John Smith has died. He calls Tony and tells him.
May 12. People are calling asking when Gordon will stand for the leadership. Gordon says after they have buried John. But while Gordon lays back, Tony is all over the media. Tony tells his wife he wants to stand for the leadership and she is very supportive and encouraging. He worries about Gordon and she says Gordon had his chance and he muffed it.
Tony meets with Peter and tells him that several members of the Shadow Government have offered him their support. Peter tells Tony that Gordon is assuming that it will be him. Tony asks if Gordon really is their strongest candidate?
Peter is interviewed on air and says he thinks one of the two (Tony and Gordon) will step aside for the other. He is obviously walking a tight rope and avoids pushing for Gordon. He seems instead to be pushing Tony because he says they want a leader who can appeal to new voters for the party.
Gordon bursts into Tonyís office scaring everyone except Tony out of the room. He demands to know from Tony is it true that he is going to stand? Gordon says they had an understanding that he was the senior one between the two of them. Tony replies that was six years ago. Events have overtaken them.
Peter writes a letter to Gordon saying a massive campaign between him and Tony would be a gift to their enemies. He goes to see Peter. Gordon tells him he wonít do it, he wonít stand aside. He will run and win. Peter says Gordon is no longer seen as the front runner. He says the problem is that the timing is bad for Gordon. In addition, Gordon tends to alienate people. He is moody, intense and intolerant. Peter adds it's important to make and keep friends Ė important to be liked.
The funeral for John Smith is held.
Gordon is wondering if he really should run. He tells his aides that it would be ugly.
Back to the present.Tony calls Gordon and sets up the meeting at Grinita. Peter tells Tony that he has to offer Gordon something, even if itís just hope.
Gordon arrives and sits. Gordon tells Tony that he taught him everything he knows. Tony suggests he is delusional. He tells Gordon that his chance was to run against John Smith, but he refused to take it. So now itís Tonyís turn. Tony says he will make Gordon the Chancellor and he will have complete control over economic policy. Gordon says the Tories are disintegrating at a steady rate and Labor could be in for a generation. He wants Tony to support him when the second term comes up for the Labor Party. Tony laughs and thinks the whole conversation is silly since Labor has been out of power for fifteen years. But he does say yes in a way.
The two men appear together before the press. The story is that Gordon has sacrificed his personal ambition for the sake of the party.
Tony Blair went on to lead the Labor Party to a landslide victory in 1997. But even after a second term, he didnít relinquish the leadership.
For that, Gordon Brown had to wait until June 27, 2007, 13 years, 3 weeks and 6 days after the Granita dinner.
Good movie. Maybe it's old hat for lovers of British politics, but I thought this great struggle between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair was interesting and enjoyable. And I learned the names of earlier leaders of the Labor Party. And the film is especially interesting now that Gordon Brown has his turn as the leader of his party and the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Both Michael Sheen (Tony Blair) and David Morrissey (Gordon Brown) were very good in their parts, although Michael Sheen really looked almost too young.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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