The Deal
The Deal poster
DVD Cover

Directed by

Stephen Frears

Produced by

Christine Langnan

Written by

Peter Morgan

Broadcast date

September 2003


Channel 4


The Deal is a TV Film set in 1983 that dramatises the well documented pact whereby Gordon Brown would not stand in the 1994 Labour leadership election so that Tony Blair could have a clear run at becoming leader of the party, and eventually Prime Minister


  • Michael Sheen - Tony Blair
  • David Morrisey - Gordon Brown
  • Elizabeth Berrington - Cherie Blair
  • Frank Kelly - John Smith
  • Paul Rhys - Peter Mandelson


The drama begins with Gordon Brown taking a telephone call from Tony Blair to arrange a meeting at the Granita restaurant in Islington.

The narrative shifts to 1983; in the wake of the Falklands War, the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government enjoys huge public popularity as the general election approaches, while Labour's radical election manifesto loses them key voters.

Gordon Brown is elected as the new Member of Parliament for Dumfermline East. In London, Brown is shown to his office in the Houses of Parliament. John Smith, a senior Labour MP, introduces Brown to his new office-mate, the new member for Sedgefield, Tony Blair. Blair makes pleasantries with Brown and, though Brown is not initially impressed,  the two become friends. Smith soon introduces the pair to Peter Mandelson, Neil Kinnock's director of communications.

Shortly afterwards, Kinnock appoints Blair to be an assistant Treasury spokesman. Brown turns down a promotion to the Scottish Office, hoping a better position will come along. He and Blair discuss their political futures and both agree that, of the two, Brown would make a better leader of the party.

Labour is unable to make significant dents in the Conservative majority at the 1987 general election. Kinnock promotes Smith to Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, with Brown as his "number two". Three years later, Thatcher resigns as Prime Minister after losing a Conservative leadership ballot. Despite contrary predictions, the Conservatives win the 1992 election.

Blair tells Brown that a new approach is needed, and that Brown should stand for the party leadership. Brown refuses to stand against Smith, his friend and mentor. Mandelson privately suggests to Brown that Blair should stand as leader but Brown ridicules the idea.

Smith is elected and, over the next two years, Labour gains support as scandals rock the government. Blair, as Shadow Home Secretary, pledges to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" in the wake of the murder of James Bulger. Smith tells Brown that he sees Blair as his natural successor as leader of the party. A year later, Smith suffers a fatal heart attack.

Blair, encouraged by his wife Cherie, decides to stand in the leadership contest. He later meets with Mandelson to tell him that he has received support from key Labour frontbenchers. Previously a supporter of Brown, Mandelson switches his allegiance to Blair.

Brown is furious that Blair has gone back on their unwritten agreement. Smith's funeral passes, and Blair's camp is sure that Brown will run. Charlie Whelan and Ed Balls (Dexter Fletcher and Matt Blair) advise Brown that he will receive support from significant trade unions. Blair decides to arrange a meeting with Brown.

At Granita, Blair tells Brown that he will run for the leadership, and in return offers Brown unprecedented power as his Chancellor, should they win the next election. Brown asks what Blair's plan is for Labour's second term, and Blair tells him that he will step down and offer his support to Brown as Prime Minister. Brown agrees and Mandelson prepares a statement from him, but discards Brown's alterations. The leadership contest is won by Blair.