Caught on tape: Gordon saying he can't trust Tony

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Gordon Brown's relationship with Tony Blair hit a new low this month with the publication of Brown's Britain, a book giving the Chancellor's side of their increasingly undignified feud.

Gordon Brown's relationship with Tony Blair hit a new low this month with the publication of Brown's Britain, a book giving the Chancellor's side of their increasingly undignified feud.

The headline-grabbing book reports that, in July 2004, Brown strode into Blair's den and said: "There is nothing that you could say to me now that I could ever believe."

This caused a huge kerfuffle last week, since it implies (heaven forbid!) that Brown believes the Prime Minister to be a liar. But despite the urgings of most of Fleet Street - and many of his own backbenchers - he has refused to deny making the comment.

Pandora can now reveal why. For I gather that Robert Peston, the book's author, has a tape recording of Brown saying it. Its source is an off-the-record interview that took place last autumn. Whatever eventually becomes of the tape - and Peston may very well keep it to himself - its very existence leaves the Chancellor in a tight spot.

"If he denies saying it, Gordon could be done for lying, which would have serious implications," says a source. "But if the tape was made public at the wrong time, it'd kill his leadership ambitions anyway."

When Pandora called Peston yesterday, he giggled. But - much like the Chancellor - would neither confirm nor deny the existence of any tape.

* IMELDA STAUNTON, who was yesterday nominated for a Bafta, is also tipped for an Oscar for her portrayal of the eponymous heroine of Vera Drake .

Sadly, she may already have damaged her chances of the latter gong, after taking a pop at that most easily-offended of groups: American cinema audiences.

At a Q&A session in London last week, Staunton was asked about the success of Vera Drake , which is about a back-street abortionist in the 1950s.

"I'm delighted, of course, but I now have American women coming up to ask me why Vera didn't stand up for herself when she was prosecuted," came her reply.

"The problem is they're fed this diet of courtroom dramas with a crap script where people suddenly develop a voice. I had to explain that's not always the situation."

In Hollywood terms, that's fighting talk. I do hope it doesn't cross the Atlantic.

* THE EARL of Lichfield, left - eminent photographer and cousin of the Queen - has fallen out in spectacular fashion with the National Trust, which runs Shugborough, his Staffordshire family home.

In August, the Trust issued a press release claiming that "there is a lot of gossip" surrounding the Earl's ancestors: "A really racy Georgian family who apparently had connections to erotic cults as well as hard drinking and gambling."

Yesterday, it issued a formal apology: "Patrick Anson is one of generations of upstanding members of the Anson family," it reads. "We apologise unreservedly for any distress caused and hope that our excellent relationship with the family continues for many years to come."

* KEN LIVINGSTONE is still under pressure over his decision to subsidise an exhibition by the anti-war artist Peter Kennard. Before Christmas, Pandora revealed that the Mayor had spent £10,000 on the event at City Hall. This raised awkward questions, since Kennard is a close friend, who donated money to Ken's re-election campaign.

Now, in a further development, documents have come into my possession showing that Ken's legal officers only approved this spending on 17 December - six weeks after the exhibition had closed, and over a month after I first raised the matter.

They are currently with lawyers acting for the London Assembly Conservatives, who are seeing if any formal rules have been broken.

Watch this space.

* The "ecological" artist Andy Goldsworthy stands accused of abandoning his admirable, Green principles. His new exhibition, at the Albion Gallery in Battersea, includes an installation made from a not-very ecological material: several felled trees.

"If that wasn't bad enough, he only used about two-thirds of the trees that were delivered," says an outraged colleague. "The rest have been abandoned in an alleyway out the back."

For the defence, the gallery said yesterday: "The oak came from Cirencester and the chestnut came from Kent. The wood that hasn't been used will be going back. The oaks had all been felled anyway and are likely to be pulped for paper now."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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