Blair opens secret talks to build bridges with Kerry

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair has secretly opened negotiations with John Kerry in an attempt to repair his damaged relations with the US Democratic presidential candidate.

Tony Blair has secretly opened negotiations with John Kerry in an attempt to repair his damaged relations with the US Democratic presidential candidate.

At least one British minister has privately met senior campaign officials as part of a concerted effort to build bridges with the senator in recent weeks.

And in a further sign of thawing relations, Mr Blair is expected to give his blessing for a number of Labour MPs to attend Mr Kerry's "coronation" at the Democrat convention next month.

Peter Hain, the Leader of the House, has been sanctioned by Mr Blair to hold talks with senior members of the Kerry campaign during a visit to Washington this month.

The meeting follows talks between Democrats and Gareth Thomas, a junior minister, on the proposed visit of around 10 Labour MPs to the party's convention in Boston.

Informed sources in the Kerry campaign confirm there has been a softening of the Downing Street prohibition against Labour MPs or ministers supporting Mr Kerry's challenge to George Bush.

"There was evidence that ministers were being stopped from seeing us. That isn't happening any more," said one official.

Mr Hain is said to be keen to investigate the use the Kerry campaign has made of the internet as well as reporting back on techniques employed by the Bush campaign that are likely to be aped by the Tories.

The cabinet minister will stop short of publicly endorsing Mr Kerry's attempt to depose Mr Bush, however.

Mr Blair has plenty of work to do in restoring good relations with the Democrats after his steadfast support for Mr Bush.

The Prime Minister, who has never met Mr Kerry, is far behind Gordon Brown when it comes to personal relations with the alternative president.

Mr Brown is understood to have been keeping tabs on the Kerry campaign through his speech-writer and friend Bob Shrum. The Chancellor, a regular guest of Mr Shrum on his holidays to Cape Cod, is also close to Senator Edward Kennedy, another Kerry ally.

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