Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

John Hutton admits 'Brown disaster as PM' prediction

Gordon Brown and John Hutton

Former Defence Secretary John Hutton has confirmed he was the cabinet minister who said Gordon Brown would be a "disaster" as prime minister.

Mr Hutton, long suspected of being the minister quoted in a 2006 report by the BBC's Nick Robinson, admitted he was the source on BBC Radio 4's PM.

But Mr Hutton said his opinion of Mr Brown had since changed.

"I think he has been a tremendously hard-working man, who has really put his heart and soul into it," he said.

Mr Hutton's admission came during an interview with Eddie Mair when - after persistent questioning - he owned up to briefing against Mr Brown.

I have never commented publicly or privately on who made the memorable phone call that produced that quote, but tonight the former Defence Secretary John Hutton outs himself as the caller
Nick Robinson

He said that September 2006 - when pro-Brown plotters were apparently seeking to speed up Tony Blair's departure from Downing Street - was a time of "quite high emotions".

Mr Hutton said he was sorry to see Mr Blair forced out so soon after an election and said the plotting to remove him "reflected very badly on those involved in it".

Asked if one of those was Mr Brown, he added: "Yes I think so. I don't think that was really a period of history in our party that anyone of us should look back with any sort of pride about.

"It was a very, very low point for us. Everyone who was involved in those machinations... I think they should hang their heads in shame. I think it was a very miserable period for us."


Asked about his current view of Mr Brown, he said: "My opinion has changed... I think he has - and certainly, in all of his dealings with me, showed nothing but, sort of, a great deal of support and help during my time as a minister.

"So I personally have no criticisms of Gordon's performance as prime minister at all. I think he has been a tremendously hard-working man, who has really put, as I said, his heart and soul into it."

I did say it, yes I did... yeah, let's just get that over with.

John Hutton on Radio 4's PM

BBC political editor Nick Robinson's report that "a member of the cabinet" had predicted that Mr Brown would be, as he reported it, an "absolute effing disaster" as prime minister was seized on as evidence of discontent within Labour ranks about the transition between prime ministers.

In the PM interview Eddie Mair asked: "You are credited with saying - perhaps that's not the right word - you are credited with saying previously that Gordon Brown would be 'a fucking disaster' in the role of prime minister. Did you say that?"

Mr Hutton replied: "That's not my view, of course."

Eddie Mair: "Did you say it?"

Mr Hutton: "I am not going to, sort of, go into this... sort of, who said what to whom again here because, you know, I could say yes or no to that question."

After refusing to answer the question a few more times Eddie Mair asks: "My guess is you said it. You haven't denied saying it, and you... So, come on. Did you say it?

Mr Hutton replied: "Well, there's no point in me denying that I didn't have very serious concerns about...."

Eddie Mair: "You said it. Didn't you?"

Mr Hutton: "I did say it. Yes, I did. Yeah. Let's just get that over with."

Mr Hutton, a long-standing ally of Tony Blair, was a rare voice among cabinet ministers to call for a challenger to stand against Mr Brown, saying that the Labour Party "didn't do coronations".

Despite that criticism, Mr Hutton remained in the cabinet under Gordon Brown where he was business secretary before moving to defence in October 2008.

When he resigned as defence secretary barely nine months later, the MP for Barrow and Furness also announced he would be leaving Parliament at the next election.

He said that he thought the full story of the events surrounding Mr Blair's earlier than planned departure from No 10 would come out at some point in the future, saying: "The truth always does."

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