Blair gave Murdoch 'veto' over EU, says PM's ex-aide

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Indy Politics

But the original entry in The Spin Doctor's Diary was toned down on the orders of the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus McDonald. The original entry, published in today's Mail on Sunday, described the atmosphere in No 10 as "very edgy" after pro-euro comments by the then Secretary of State for Trade, Peter Mandelson "because we have promised News International we won't make any changes to our Europe policy without talking to them."

The idea that an Australian-born newspaper magnate should have a veto over Britain's relations with Europe will infuriate Labour supporters. The version that will appear in the diary, to be published by Hodder this month, will read: "apparently, News International are under the impression we won't make any changes without asking them."

Its author, Lance Price, was a Downing Street press officer in 1998-2000. As a former civil servant, he was required to submit the manuscript to the Cabinet Office before publication. As The Independent on Sunday disclosed on 17 July, Mr Price was originally told by the former Cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull that publication of the diary in any form would be "completely unacceptable". Sir Andrew has since retired.

Another change imposed on Mr Price was that an entry describing Mr Blair as "relishing" ordering air strikes over Iraq in 1998 was toned down to say that he had "mixed emotions" about the first military action he had embarked on as Prime Minister. In public, he claimed to have issued the order with a "heavy heart".

The diaries suggest that the deference shown to Mr Murdoch was not matched by any great respect for the senior journalists at his biggest selling newspaper, The Sun. A diary entry for 16 March 1999 says: "Blair and [Alastair] Campbell went to lunch at The Sun - Alastair described it as like being at a BNP meeting."

The diary reveals that in 1998 Tony Blair was afraid that the young Tory leader of the day, William Hague, might be forced out of office by fellow Tories "because it raised the prospect of Ken Clarke taking over, something he really fears."

It also adds detail to the long-running saga of Mr Blair's rivalry with Gordon Brown, and Mr Brown's enmity with Mr Blair's favourite minister, Peter Mandelson, now the EU Commissioner for Trade.

Mr Price reveals that when he first took the job, he heard Mr Mandelson's political adviser, Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, describing Brown and his press adviser, Charlie Whelan, as the "forces of evil". When Mr Mandelson was promoted into the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry Mr Brown refused to be photographed with him. But Mr Price suggests that Mr Mandelson wanted the photocall only because "he wanted to crow". When Alastair Campbell saw the television shots of Mr Mandelson emerging from No 10 after his appointment, he described him caustically as "the Secretary of State for Smugness".

Another revelation is that one of Gerhard Schröder's first acts on winning the German general election seven years ago was to reject an invitation to appear at Labour's annual conference. "Blair personally invited him to come to Conference. But he's gone to Paris instead. So we lied and said we hadn't invited him," the diary records.