Blair denies Whelan book veto

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR said yesterday that Downing Street could not stop Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's aide, publishing a book about political rivalries in the Cabinet after his resignation from Whitehall.

Mr Whelan is rumoured to have had offers of up to pounds 200,000 for a book of disclosures about feuds between Mr Brown and the former Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson and supporters of Mr Blair. The Prime Minister yesterday denied that No 10 was blocking a book: "I don't know how we could, even if we wanted to, and I haven't the slightest knowledge as to whether he's writing one or he isn't."

Mr Whelan is said to have received three offers from publishers since his announcement last Monday that he intends to leave the Treasury. His decision followed rumours that he had been behind the leak of the loan of pounds 373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson, the former paymaster-general, to Peter Mandelson.

There are countless feuds for Mr Whelan to draw on, if he decides to go into print. Mr Brown resented Mr Blair winning the leadership and blamed Mr Mandelson; Robin Cook resented Mr Brown and "hated" Mr Mandelson; John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, saw Mr Mandelson's influence over Mr Blair as a "cancer" at the heart of the Government; Clare Short could not stand Mr Cook; and Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's spokesman, refused to work with Mr Whelan.

Romola Christopherson, a former chief press officer at the Department of Health, yesterday wrote that Mr Campbell was "more at the centre of the big picture than anyone".

Mr Whelan, if he goes ahead with the book, would be able to avoid the accusation of breaking Whitehall rules by refraining from revealing anythingabout the Treasury itself.

Last week a leaked internal memo from senior party officials to staff at Labour's headquarters at Millbank in London. called for an end to feuding.

The memo, which was passed to The Independent, warned that the party risked losing the next general election if such internal divisions were not ironed out.

In particular the rift between allies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown has been held responsible for the departures of Peter Mandelson, Geoffrey Robinson and now Mr Whelan.

The book, if it materialises, will only serve to highlight these divisions and further weaken Labour's chances of re-election.

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