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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Downing St soap bubbles on
By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

When David Blunkett insists he was not sniping at the Chancellor with his "thou shalt not covet" lesson, he must be taken at his word.

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
The sop opera that never ends
He was, he insists, talking only about his own position when he said "those of us" in senior positions shouldn't presume they should be taking someone else's job.

It is impossible, however, not to apply his remarks more widely, even if that was not his intention. And one name in particular is guaranteed to leap to mind - Gordon Brown.

Once again, just as the Downing Street soap opera appears to have calmed, amid suggestions the prime minister has reassured the Chancellor his inheritance is secure, another gripping episode or two are on offer.

First there is the "money making" effort of former Downing Street adviser Derek Scott, whose book is claimed to detail shouting matches between the two men.

Best reaction

That follows the recent publication of the hefty work by Anthony Seldon which also highlights the bad blood between the former friends.

And neither of those works are the first to detail the alleged breakdown of the relationship between Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

David Blunkett
The home secretary's remarks may be seen as a warning to Gordon Brown
There have been several similar books and articles and even a TV drama about the issue which, it is claimed, gnaws at the heart of the New Labour government.

Surely there is nothing left to be said, particularly when things appear to have calmed of late.

And indeed, that is the general approach inside No 10 Downing Street where the feeling is the best reaction to fresh claims is simply to ignore them in the belief they will have a shelf life shorter than a ripe avocado.

But that approach clearly has not taken account of either Gordon Brown's notoriously egg shell sensitivity or David Blunkett's inability to deliver a quote that doesn't demand front page headlines.

So the reaction to Mr Scott's threatened allegations was a Vesuvian eruption from the Treasury which some believed verged on the paranoid.


Then Mr Blunkett used his New Statesman interview to deliver a characteristically robust warning about the evils of covetousness to, apparently, only himself.

The prime minister, it can be confidently stated, is beyond anger at this running sore.

Nowadays he appears to simply carry it as one of the extra burdens of office.

But he will not be delighted that Mr Blunkett, however inadvertently, has stirred the pot.

Apart from anything else, those of a more conspiratorial mind will wonder if he was speaking as a "friend" of Tony Blair's - not helpful, as Downing Street might say.

And, more widely, there is the fear that this soap opera is veering dangerously close to becoming the political equivalent to Big Brother.

There's nothing particularly new in it, it just gets increasingly unpleasant and desperate and you just can't tear yourself away from it.

And, if it goes further down that route there can only be one outcome, somebody will have to go.

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