News manager who lost control of the fax

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PATRICK ROBERTSON, the public relations executive whose memo (in full, right) reveals that Jonathan Aitken, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, feels he is "one more bad story away" from resignation, is a right-wing wunderkind.

The man who advised Mr Aitken last week against another head-on clash with the tabloid press dropped out of Oxford University when he was 20. He had become so "patriotic and het up" about the power of the European Union, he said, that he had no option but to concentrate his energies on fighting it.

From the start Mr Robertson revealed an ability to win the support of older and more powerful men who could help make him and his Euro-scepticism a force in the land.

Norman Stone, Professor of History at Oxford, was his tutor and an early fan. When he set up the anti-European Bruges Group businessmen such as Lord Hanson, Sir James Goldsmith and Henry Keswick became generous sponsors. Conservative academics including Professor Stone and Professor Patrick Minford became advisers, as did Lords Tebbit and Young. Margaret Thatcher was honorary president.

It is hard to remember in these days of incessant Tory factionalism, but in the early years of John Major's premiership the Conservative Party and Conservative Press backed him. The Bruges Group was one of the first organisations to break the right-wing consensus. In April 1991, Mr Robertson accused Mr Major of being a wimp, then apologised and resigned as secretary of the 1,500-strong group.

In June of the same year he was back on the television screens. A Bruges Group document accusing Mr Major of being "frightened" to stand up to Conservatives who advocate European monetary union was leaked. Mr Robertson was the author, although not the leaker, and was at the centre of the national furore which followed.

The embrace of the Tory right brought him enemies. "You're finished," Sir Edward Heath is reported to have spat at him in 1988, "we're going to come down on you like a ton of bricks."

The Scottish public school boy's connections with the Conservative right did not die when he left the Bruges group. His PR company was set up with the help of Cecil Parkinson, the former Conservative Party Chairman and Gerald Howarth, Lady Thatcher's former PPS.

Sir James Goldsmith is a client. Mr Robertson broke the news of the engagement of Sir James's daughter, Jemima, to Imran Khan, scuppering the Daily Telegraph's plans to run an exclusive story.

Conservative politicians are on the client list too. "We [have] assisted Neil Hamilton [who resigned as a minister to fight allegations that he accepted hospitality from Mohammed al-Fayed, the Harrods' chairman] and Jonathan Aitken with sleaze control," he told the Evening Standard in December last year.

His leaked memo shows him arguing clearly and cogently about what course the minister should adopt to prevent the "one more bad story [which] will break the camel's back". But Mr Robertson may find that an essential part of sleaze control is control of your fax machine.

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