The Mandelson Affair: `Dear Tony, I can't believe I am writing this letter'

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The Independent Online
This is the text of the letter sent by Peter Mandelson to the Prime Minister yesterday:

"Dear Tony, I can scarcely believe I am writing this letter to you. As well as being one of my closest friends you are a close colleague whose leadership and political qualities I value beyond all others.

"As you have, I have reflected overnight on the situation concerning the loan I took from Geoffrey Robinson and I have decided to resign from the Government.

"As I said publicly yesterday, I do not believe that I have done anything wrong or improper. But I should not, with all candour, have entered into the arrangement. I should, having done so, told you and other colleagues whose advice I value. And I should have told my permanent secretary on learning of the inquiry into Geoffrey Robinson, although I had entirely stood aside from this.

"I am sorry about this situation. But we came to power promising to uphold the highest possible standards in public life. We have not just to do so, but we must be seen to do so.

"Therefore with huge regret I wish to resign. I am very proud of the role I played in helping you and previous leaders of the Labour Party to make our party electable and to win our historic victory last May. I am proud of the trust you placed in me both at the Cabinet office and at the DTI.

"In just 18 months you have helped to transform this country and the Government has made huge progress delivering on our manifesto and its programme of modernisation.

"I will always be a loyal Labour man and I am not prepared to see the party and the Government suffer the kind of attack this issue has provoked.

"You can be assured, of course, of my continuing friendship and total loyalty.

Yours ever, Peter."

This is the text of the Prime Minister's reply to Mr Mandelson's letter of resignation:

"Dear Peter, you will know better than anyone the feelings with which I write to you. You and I have been personal friends and the closest of political colleagues.

"It is no exaggeration to say that without your support and advice we would never have built New Labour.

"It was typical of you, when we spoke last night, that your thought was for the reputation of the Labour Party and the Government and that you believed that since there had been a misjudgement on your part, then, as you said to me `we can't be like the last lot' and that what we are trying to achieve for the country is more important than any individual.

"But I also want you to know that you have my profound thanks for all you have done and my belief that, in the future, you will achieve much, much more with us.

Yours ever, Tony."

This is the text of Geoffrey Robinson's resignation letter to the Prime Minister:

"Dear Tony, I am writing to ask you to accept my resignation from the Government.

"I have enjoyed the work of the last 18 months and have welcomed in particular the opportunity to work on the economic strategy that is designed to secure the renewal of our country. But, as you know, I have been subjected to a persistent - and I believe unfair - set of allegations about my business affairs.

"I have already accepted responsibility and have apologised to the House of Commons for oversights in the past concerning registration of interests.

"But although my affairs have been under full political and media scrutiny for more than a year, it is clear that I have not misused my position either as an MP or minister.

"I have done nothing wrong in any of these areas and I will vigorously defend myself against any allegations.

"In the case of the loan to Peter Mandelson, I merely considered myself in 1996 as someone in a position to help a long standing friend, with no request for anything in return.

"There comes a time when, after more than 12 months of a highly charged political campaign, the point has been reached when I feel that it is no longer right that you or your Government should be affected by or have to contend with these attacks.

"I will always remain totally loyal to the Government and will continue to support it in whatever way I can in the future.

Yours, Geoffrey."

This is the text of the letter from the Prime Minister to Geoffrey Robinson:

"Dear Geoffrey, thank you for your letter. I accept your decision with regret. I know that you have felt these past months hounded by the campaign against you.

"I want you to know, however, that what I remember and thank you for, is your immense contribution to the Government.

"The windfall tax which helped fund the New Deal for the unemployed; the reform of the corporate tax system; the saving of the coal industry; the agreement with the private sector to give the biggest boost to science we have ever given to Britain; the reinvigoration of the Private Finance Initiative; for all your business sense and helpful advice, we thank you.

"You have performed the task of public servant with great dedication in circumstances of extraordinary difficulty. I look forward to working with you in the future.

Yours ever, Tony."