'Don't diss me or you will let in Cameron', Blair tells Brown

Tony Blair has accused Gordon Brown of ‘dissing’ his record and believes he needs to stand down if Labour is to have a realistic chance of avoiding a catastrophic General Election defeat.

But the former Prime Minister has told his allies not to plot against his successor for fear that it will cause an angry Labour backlash and encourage Mr Brown to dig his heels in.

Mr Blair’s stark assessment of Mr Brown’s prospects was disclosed by senior Labour figures amid a new round of infighting among Cabinet Ministers tipped to replace him if he quits.David Cameron and Gordon Brown

Don't 'diss' me: Tony Blair has warned Gordon Brown against attacking his record

Supporters of the frontrunners – Schools Secretary Ed Balls, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Justice Minister Jack Straw – accused each other of preparing a leadership bid.

In addition, senior officials at No10 say there is an ‘air of gloom’ in Downing Street – which extends to some of Mr Brown’s oldest allies.

The next crisis for Mr Brown is the Glasgow East by-election on July 24. If Labour loses its third-safest seat in Scotland to the Scottish Nationalists, he is certain to face fresh calls to quit.

Since stepping down, Mr Blair has tried to avoid commenting publicly on Mr Brown. Last month, he said: ‘I said when I left that I was going to be 100 per cent supportive of Gordon and that is what I continue to be.’

He praised Mr Brown as ‘probably the most successful finance minister in the world for a decade’ – pointedly omitting his performance as Prime Minister.

However, The Mail on Sunday has learned that in private, Mr Blair is scathing about the man who plotted to oust him. Senior sources say he has accused Mr Brown of blundering by ‘dissing’ his achievements in power.

‘Tony believes Gordon made a fatal error by trying to rubbish certain aspects of what New Labour did, in particular all his nonsense about Tony being all style and no substance,’ said one.

‘By trying to distance himself from some of New Labour’s policies, he has left a gaping hole for Cameron to take advantage of.

‘When Gordon took over, Cameron was in big trouble. Now he is miles ahead and it is all Gordon’s fault. He tried to rub Tony’s nose in it over Iraq and made a fool of himself when he went to Iraq during the Tory conference for a feeble publicity stunt and got caught out.’

Mr Blair is said to have had detailed, regular discussions with political allies over whether Mr Brown should be challenged or allowed to carry on.

The Mail on Sunday understands that the former Prime Minister believes that while it would be in Labour’s interests for Mr Brown to step down, he should not be pressured into it.

‘Some of Tony’s friends think Brown must be got rid of by whatever means,’ said a source.

‘Others agree with Tony that Gordon is a disaster, but if we try to do anything about it, it will not help in the long term. Gordon will claim he is the victim of a Blair conspiracy.’

When Mr Blair resigned he was bitterly disappointed that David Miliband, his former policy chief, failed to challenge Mr Brown.

Mr Blair still believes that Mr Miliband would make the best successor, although some Blairites prefer Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell.

Mr Purnell, who, at just 38, is four years younger than Mr Miliband, is seen by some as having ‘more personality’ than brainy ‘geek’ Mr Miliband. A source close to Mr Blair said there are only three figures who could ‘persuade’ Mr Brown to leave: Mr Straw, Cabinet colleague Ed Balls and Mr Brown’s wife, Sarah. ‘If one or all of them told Gordon he must step down, he might do it,’ said the source. ‘He wouldn’t listen to anyone else.’

One MP claimed that Mr Straw’s ambitions were not restricted to playing the elder statesman who tells Mr Brown to go. His allies are said to have discussed a leadership campaign. Some Blairites say if Mr Brown stands down in the next year, his successor could call a snap Election – even though Labour faces almost certain defeat.

‘Whoever succeeds Brown will lose if they hang on to 2010 and will have to resign too,’ said one.

‘If a successor called a snap Election and reduced the margin of defeat, they could justifiably say “give me five more years”.’

The new reports of Labour dissent come after it emerged that Mr Brown has called on Mr Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell to advise him.

It was seen by some of Mr Brown’s own supporters as a mark of desperation. Mr Campbell once described Mr Brown as having ‘psychological flaws’ and had to leave Downing Street after the death of weapons expert David Kelly. He is currently working on the second instalment of his diaries.

‘Gordon is giving him lots more juicy stories,’ said one MP.

A spokesman for Mr Blair said last night: ‘This is simply not true. Tony continues to be 100 per cent supportive of Gordon Brown and the Government.’

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now