Brown pressed to get rid of his spin-doctor

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The Independent Online
GORDON BROWN was under growing pressure from cabinet colleagues last night to sack his personal spin doctor, Charlie Whelan, to end the feuding over the resignation of Peter Mandelson.

One of Mr Brown's cabinet colleagues said until Mr Whelan went, the feuding would continue in the Government. "I don't know whether Charlie will go but as long as Charlie lasts, the deviousness will continue. It's in his blood. It's like a disease," said the source.

Friends of Mr Mandelson saw Mr Whelan's fingerprints on reports about the former secretary of state for trade and industry's personal loan of pounds 373,000 from Geoffrey Robinson, the former paymaster-general, which forced Mr Mandelson from office.

Mr Brown has had a feud with Mr Mandelson over "Mandy's" role in preventing him from winning the leadership race against Mr Blair. Mr Mandelson's fall from office was seen around Whitehall as a victory for Mr Brown.

"Gordon has won the war. The question now is will he sacrifice Charlie?" said a Whitehall source.

Mr Brown has held on to his spin doctor in the past, largely because he is effective in promoting the Chancellor, but senior cabinet sources said that damage was now so great in Downing Street he may be forced to let him go.

Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's press secretary, was reported to have said he wanted Mr Whelan out after Mr Mandelson's resignation. Mr Campbell has denied the claim to ministers, but ministerial sources said there was now an attempt to "clip Charlie's wings".

The outspoken former trade union official, who has good connections with the press, co- operated with the biography on Mr Brown that caused the first serious wobbles in the Blair Government by highlighting the Chancellor's continuing resentment against Mr Mandelson over the leadership race. The Downing Street machine has been seeking to close him down ever since.

Mr Whelan was also blamed for the report in the Financial Times on Britain's entry to the single currency that proved the catalyst for the Chancellor's statement to the Commons last year. Mr Whelan denied knowledge of the off-the-record briefings but, in a documentary on the Chancellor's first days at the Treasury, he did admit to occasionally resorting to lying.