Politics: Labour rushes to fix Brown-Blair rift after 'infantile' leaks

Peter Mandelson yesterday pulled out of a BBC radio interview to avoid questions about relations between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent, says Norman Lamont warned they would have to 'cool it' or risk real damage.

A concerted effort was made by ministers and "spin doctors" yesterday to end the speculation of a rift between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair as it threatened to run out of control. and inflict damage at the heart of the Government.

Mr Brown, who was in Brussels for an important European Union meeting, brushed aside questions about the alleged rift saying he would not be diverted from the serious business of government.

Peter Mandelson, the minister without portfolio, refused to go on the BBC lunchtime news when it became clear he would be interviewed about the relationship between Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

After a weekend in which Mr Brown's friends were accused of "letting their egos run away with them", Mr Blair's official spokesman dismissed the reports as "silly" and said: "That doesn't diminish or change the Prime Minister's view of the Chancellor - that he is an extremely excellent Chancellor for whom he has immense regard professionally and personally."

The message last night was that the two men remain close, in spite of the reports. The spokesman also described as "shallow" the Brown biography by Paul Routledge, the political correspondent of the Independent on Sunday, which sparked the controversy.

Behind the denials lies a real fear that unless it is stopped now, there could be real damage done to the relationship which lies at the core of the Government.

Norman Lamont, the former Tory Chancellor, who had similar experiences with John Major, said: "This is largely exaggerated. It is a little local difficulty but if people go on talking it up, and taking pot shots at each other, it will become real. They have to cool it."

Downing Street compared the reports of the rift, allegedly over Mr Brown's grudge about being outmanoeuvred by Mr Blair for the leadership, with the "flavour of the week" speculation about Robin Cook, and his affair with his secretary; and about Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, and how his son was cautioned for allegedly supplying cannabis.

At times over the weekend, the clash seemed to be more between the spokesmen for the two camps - Charley Whelan, the Chancellor's aide, and Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's press secretary - rather than between Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

Bob Marshall-Andrews, the Labour MP for Medway, said last night that suggestions that the Chancellor might be psychologically impaired were "puerile". Asked on Radio 4's PM programme about leaks in newspapers which have been sourced to Downing Street he said: "It is so depressingly infantile to brief against your senior colleagues or any of your colleagues in this way. And to start suggesting they are psychologically or mentally impaired is puerile.

"We think we know where it is coming from. It may very well be the usual unelected suspects. But at the end of the day the Prime Minister appoints these people and employs them and he has got to sort them out."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent