Don't blame the spin-doctor - blame his boss, Mr Brown

IF CHARLIE Whelan did not exist, it would, be necessary for the Government to invent him. This convenient Beelzebub has been identified as the source of the revelations of Peter Mandelson's home-loan arrangements without anything as vulgar as proof. "The Government will not be held to ransom by one little oik," was Number 10's word to that newspaper of New Labour record, The Sun. The Blairites always call Mr Whelan an oik. It is practically a registered code.

So justice must be seen to be done and wild Charlie's ill-kempt head must roll to avenge the crime committed against Mr Mandelson. Clearly, the Prime Minister's briefers had prepared the way to the scaffold.

Hardened lobby correspondents, who could go 12 rounds with a boa constrictor after a long lunch, came over faint at the memory of Charlie's rough and ready techniques. "Enemies were `bollocked' to their face in profane language... Journalists who transgressed were telephoned at home to be told that their stories were `crap'," wrote one columnist. The horror, the horror. One pictured sweat-drenched hacks whimpering in fear because someone called them at home and swore at them.

True, when it comes to briefing against his enemies Mr Whelan has enough previous convictions to keep a whole army of probation officers occupied. He is all the usual suspects rolled into one. But it is a little too easy to pin the blame for this ragged state of affairs solely on one old lag who is, in the Westmister grand scheme of things, a minor player .

Mr Whelan is nothing more and nothing less than the most public symbol of the undigested tension between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Were relations between the Prime Minister and his Chancellor not so fraught, he would not have been free to ply his mischievous trade in the first place. Don't blame the monkey - look to the organ grinder.

If, as Alastair Campbell, John Prescott, Jack Cunningham, Uncle Tom Cobley and all suggest, Mr Whelan briefed the journalist Paul Routledge against Peter Mandelson, then he did so because he knew that this was what his master wanted. Indeed, he was behaving exactly as he had done the last time he served up to Mr Routledge touching details of Mr Brown's unhappiness at the manner in which Mr Blair had snatched the leadership from him.

Mr Whelan is daft but not stupid. Detonating another powerful charge at a target as well protected as Peter Mandelson was a high-risk enterprise and not one which he would have undertaken single-handedly.

The real reason for the discord is and always has been the unclarified nature of the relationship between Mr Brown and Mr Blair. Like mediaeval knights, they have allowed their minions to go to war against one another while preserving a serene countenance and giving generously to the Church. The whole business is fetid with pretence. Nothing could be more amusing - or soul-destroying, depending on your view - than Mr Mandelson and Mr Brown fencing each other now with showy niceness. As connoisseurs of feuds will tell you, this is the most potent weapon by far. When I heard that Mr Brown had called Mr Mandelson five times to tell him how sorry he was for his trouble and that Mr Mandelson had been very grateful, I prayed for both their souls.

It is often said that Mr Blair and Mr Brown have a close working relationship and that rumours of a rift are therefore unfounded. But the real story of the two men is far more tortuous, complex and destructive than outright liking or not liking.

They are both architects of New Labour, but their views differ profoundly of why a reformed party is necessary and how its evolution will proceed. The Brownites believe in the Labour Party, as a cultural entity and a continuum with the past. They celebrate the memory of the late John Smith, who was a decent and kindly man, but no political mould-breaker. Ask a disciple of Mr Brown's whether Smith would have won the 1997 election if he had lived and they will reply without hesitation that he would have done so and made an excellent Prime Minister. They would have preferred to see a traditional product of the Labour party in Number 10 than the confident outsider there today.

Natural-born Blairites feel differently. Their fierce loyalty to Tony stems from a visceral belief that neither Mr Smith nor Mr Brown could have constructed a political force with such over-whelming appeal to the middle-classes and driven the Conservative party to the margins of relevance. This theory that Mr Blair is somehow exceptional irks Mr Brown - the more so since the Chancellor has the more classical political intellect.

Yet it is Mr Blair who has the keener instinct for power and more innate understanding of what the country's hopes and fears are. I do not know whether the Chancellor will ever come to terms with this uncomfortable fact of life. A lot of his operations - the cultivation of Mr Robinson, the deployment of Mr Robinson's wealth and the creation of closely-knit court around the Treasury - suggest that he cannot resist squirreling away favours and political debts for the day when he can bid once again to lead the Labour Party.

Harbouring this dream is not wrong in itself. Allowing it to contaminate his dealings with close colleagues is. Mr Brown does not respect - oreven recognise - the distinction.

The problem for those who wish to loosen Mr Brown's clenched grip on old resentments is that most of the Labour Party, in the country and in Parliament, and the vast majority of the Cabinet consider him to be a decent man, driven to the edge of mania by the disappointment he suffered in the leadership race. There is no appetite for a show-down between Mr Blair and Mr Brown which would end in the humiliation - or even the removal - of the Chancellor. The Prime Minister knows that it would undermine his appeal and authority if they are seen to be too hard on Gordon.

For all the appearance of being a ruthless, lean fighting force, New Labour is an emotionally super-charged and rather vulnerable group of people, unable to stop scratching at old scars. It has its own sentimentality, as acute as anything the old socialists with their banners and slogans had to offer. Mr Blair stands aloof of this, but knows that it matters and that the illusion of warmth and friendship must be maintained at the top of the party, however viciously reality bites.

So Charlie Whelan has become the lightening conductor, diverting the rage and resentment that should more properly fall on Mr Brown. The reason the spin-doctor will probably have to go is not because he was the author of the leak. He may well not have been. Nor is because he exceeded his master's brief. It is because he fulfiled it too well. The sacrifice of Charlie is intended to end the tribal massacres of the last week. When he is gone, the casus belli will fester on.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss