Downing Street furious as official's diary accuses Blair of 'relishing' Iraq invasion

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Lance Price, the former deputy to Alastair Campbell when he was the Prime Minister's director of communications, has been accused of "betrayal" by the Cabinet Secretary after writing a "tell-all" diary.

The ex-BBC reporter, who worked at Downing Street for three years, had his account of the war on Iraq censored by the Cabinet Office, but his original diary note was published yesterday in The Mail on Sunday, which has bought the serial rights to his book, The Spin Doctor's Diary.

Mr Price's account confirms there is some truth to the belief that Mr Campbell treated Mr Blair with contempt. He noted in his diary that Mr Campbell had called Mr Blair a "dickhead" to his face, and refused to take calls from ministers who had annoyed him. Mr Price said his boss made personal attacks on Mo Mowlam, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, who died last month, noting her performance on one occasion had been "two out of 10".

One former ally of Mr Price said: "We are very surprised at what he has done. We are even more surprised that he chose to give it to The Mail on Sunday, which is not exactly the most supportive of the Labour Party."

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, has taken steps to stop the most damaging claims being published. In a letter to Mr Price's publishers, Sir Gus accused him of "betrayal".

Mr Price, 47, was obliged to submit his manuscript to the Government for clearance under the civil service codes of practice. Three passages were toned down on the orders of No 10 and the Cabinet Secretary.

In his entry for Christmas 1998, when Mr Blair first authorised UK air strikes against Iraq, Mr Price wrote: "I couldn't help feeling TB was rather relishing his first blooding as PM, sending the boys into action. Despite all the necessary stuff about taking action 'with a heavy heart', I think he feels it is part of his coming of age as a leader."

The Cabinet Office ordered the entry to be toned down to read: "I couldn't help feeling TB had mixed emotions about sending the boys into action. He said he did with a 'heavy heart' but at the same time, he must have known it would happen sometime and maybe it's part of the coming of age as a leader."

The Cabinet Office also toned down a reference to Mr Blair's "f-ing and blinding" over the prospect of a Labour defeat in the 1999 Welsh Assembly elections. Mr Price wrote: "'Fucking Welsh', repeated many times by TB." That was changed to: "TB f-ing and blinding about the whole thing."

Claims that Mr Blair had promised to tell Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media mogul, before announcing a change of policy on Britain's entry to the euro were also toned down.

In his original diary entry, Mr Price said No 10 was "very edgy" after pro-euro comments by Mr Mandelson "because apparently we've promised News International we won't make any changes to our Europe policy without talking to them." The censors ordered it to be changed to say: "Apparently News International are under the impression we won't make any changes without asking them."

Downing Street has refused to comment on the diaries. "We don't want to get drawn into this book at all," said an official.

Downing Street also refused to deny unrelated claims that Mr Blair was furious with the "anti-US bias" of the BBC in its coverage of the New Orleans flood disaster. It was widely reported yesterday that Mr Blair had denounced the BBC's reporting of Hurricane Katrina as "full of hatred of America" and "gloating" at the plight of the US.

Mr Blair allegedly made the remarks at a private meeting with Mr Murdoch.

How Downing Street changed the diary

ORIGINAL VERSION:

"I couldn't help feeling TB was rather relishing his first blooding as PM, sending the boys into action. Despite all the necessary stuff about taking action 'with a heavy heart', I think he feels it is part of his coming of age as a leader."

CENSORED VERSION:

"I couldn't help feeling TB had mixed emotions about sending the boys into action. He said he did it with a 'heavy heart' but at the same time, he must have known it would happen some time and maybe it's part of the coming of age as a leader."

ORIGINAL VERSION:

'"Fucking Welsh', repeated many times by TB."

CENSORED VERSION:

"TB f-ing and blinding about the whole thing."

ORIGINAL VERSION:

"No 10 were very edgy because apparently we've promised News International we won't make any changes to our Europe policy without talking to them."

CENSORED VERSION:

"No 10 were very edgy because apparently News International are under the impression we won't make any changes without asking them."

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