‘Adulation can turn into contempt’ John Sergeant talks ‘awful warning’ for Boris Johnson

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John Sergeant, 77, has shared how politics is a difficult business to be in, as he discussed the new BBC Two series Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution, which explores former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s careers. The journalist claimed the series contains an “awful warning” for current Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson, who could have his own “Gordon Brown figure” waiting in the wings to take over.

After the death of John Smith in 1994, Blair and his close colleague Gordon Brown (they shared an office at the House of Commons) were both seen as possible candidates for the party leadership. 

They agreed not to stand against each other, it is said, as part of a supposed Blair–Brown pact.

Brown, who considered himself the senior of the two, understood that Blair would give way to him.

Opinion polls soon indicated, however, that the latter appeared to enjoy greater support among voters.

Their relationship in power became so turbulent that it was reported the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, often had to act as “marriage guidance counsellor”.

Blair served as prime minister of the UK from 1997 to 2007 before Brown who served first as Labour’s Chancellor Of The Exchequer and was then elected PM from 2007 to 2010.

Speaking on the upcoming BBC series, Sergeant said: “Politics is a tough business and executive producer Steve Condie and his team have painted it in stark colours, as they did in their last major documentary, Thatcher: a Very British Revolution.

“The new series contains an awful warning for Boris Johnson, who possibly has his own Gordon Brown figure in the wings in the form of Rishi Sunak – how adulation can turn into contempt, ” he told Radio Times.

Johnson was the Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and became prime minister two years ago.

Since then some have speculated that the PM resents the current Chancellor Of The Exchequer Rishi Sunak, as Andrew Rawnsley claimed: “He is not the chancellor that the prime minister thought he was getting when he promoted the much younger man to Number 11”. 

“His expectation then was that he would be an unshowy and pliant next-door neighbour willing to rubber-stamp all the cheque

“Mr Johnson would be the great showman and a modest chancellor would stay behind the scenes, dutifully hunched over the Treasury’s spreadsheets trying to make the numbers add up. 

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“The actual Mr Sunak is keen on self-promotion with a talent for charming Tory MPs.

“He is much more liked than the prime minister and no one believes him when he protests that he has no ambition to reach the very apex of the greasy pole,” he added in his Guardian column.

The prime minister reportedly threatened to demote Sunak after a letter written by the chancellor calling for COVID-19 travel restrictions to be relaxed was leaked — a document the very existence of which advisers say points to tensions between the two men.

Letters written by ministers are usually written to be leaked, one former Treasury official told Politico.

When it all started to go wrong for Theresa May, “pretty much everyone was writing letters”.

“Ministers would put their view in an official letter, and then that would get leaked, and it had nothing to do with day-to-day, but it was very obvious that this person was on manoeuvres,” they said.

“They feel like they’re not being heard by the PM, so they’re using media as their way to make their voice heard and known.”

Express.co.uk has contacted Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak for comment.

Radio Times On Sale Now.

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