What’s The Deal? Peter Morgan & Michael Sheen, Tony Blair & Gordon Brown.
Authors: Berger, R.
Conference: PCA/ACA National Conference
Dates: 8-11 April 2009Abstract:
This paper examines Peter Morgan’s 2003 film, The Deal which dramatises an alleged meal at the Granita restaurant in North London on May 31st, 1994. The film claims that this meal is where Gordon Brown and Tony Blair decided on the future direction of the UK’s Labour Party, setting the course for the Labour administration from 1997.
At this meal, Blair allegedly promised he would hand-over the premiership to Brown halfway through the second term of any future Labour administration, a ‘deal’ which Morgan’s film claims had a significant impact on UK politics.
This paper argues that Peter Morgan’s The Deal became seen as almost historical fact, and affected the way in which political commentators and the public viewed Blair and Brown's supposed feud throughout 2004 and into 2007 when Blair finally left office.
This paper further argues that in the same way an adaptation can eventually become ‘canon’, this adaptation of what was little more than a rumour can become seen as an accurate historical portrayal, which can in turn significantly shape public opinion. Despite the fact that many historians and biographers such as Anthony Seldon (Blair and Blair Unbound), have cast doubt on the meeting and its importance, The Deal persists in the imagination.
With his later portrayal of the relationship between Blair and Elizabeth II – The Queen (2006) – and the fraught battle between disgraced US president Richard Nixon and David Frost – Frost/Nixon (2008) – Morgan, along with long-time collaborator Michael Sheen – are able to adapt rumour and speculation, combined with historical fact, which serves to authenticate events which have already taken hold in people’s imagination.
In short, it is more dramatic to imagine that the entire future of the Labour Government from 1997 is built on an epic rivalry and a deal that was done over one single meal in 1994. This is Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen’s great skill, as their partnership moves on to yet another portrayal of a flawed and complex character, this time the ill-fated manager of Leeds Utd football club, Brian Clough, in The Damned United (2009).
Preferred by: Richard Berger