Blair tried to sack Whelan at election

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The Independent Online
AS LABOUR celebrated its landslide election victory, Tony Blair had other things on his mind: he was trying to sack Charlie Whelan, the press secretary to Gordon Brown.

The incoming Prime Minister's priorities on election night in 1997 are revealed by Mr Whelan in a Channel 4 documentary, Confessions of a Spin Doctor to be shown tonight.

Mr Whelan, who resigned in January, tells the programme: "By the time I got to the Festival Hall, everybody had a few to drink, everybody was having fun, and it was a great moment in history.

"That was slightly tinged with the fact that I knew Tony Blair, the man who was up there giving this great speech, had been on the phone to Gordon Brown saying `Well, we don't want Charlie Whelan involved in government'."

Mr Whelan said that Mr Brown saw off Mr Blair's attempt to sack him: "Clearly Gordon said that I work for Gordon and I'm staying with him, that was the end of it."

It is believed that Mr Blair made a second attempt to remove Mr Whelan after the Government botched the launch of its policy on the single European currency in October 1997. But he survived because Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's press secretary, accepted his share of the blame for the mistakes.

However, Mr Whelan quit in January this year after the resignation from the Cabinet of Peter Mandelson over his pounds 373,000 home loan from Geoffrey Robinson, the former Paymaster General. Mr Whelan denied being the source of newspaper reports revealing the loan. "It wasn't me," he said. "Enough time has elapsed; if it was me, I'd cough."

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