Former transport secretary bids to rebuild political career

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Indy Politics

The former Cabinet minister is hoping to pick up the threads of a political career ruined by shareholders' anger over Railtrack's collapse, which came at a time when he was politically weakened by the furore surrounding his special adviser, Jo Moore, who suggested that 11 September 2001 would be a good day to "bury" bad news.

The Tories gave notice yesterday that the political dispute over Railtrack's collapse will continue, even though the shareholders lost their case in court. But they are hoping they can shift the political attack away from Mr Byers, having written him off as a "busted flush". They want to concentrate their fire on Gordon Brown, after details emerged during the court hearing of the role played by his advisers.

Mr Byers resigned from the Cabinet in 2002 after months of relentless bad publicity, in which the nickname "Liar Byers" cropped up repeatedly in tabloid headlines. Yesterday's judgment against the Railtrack shareholders demonstrated that the accusation was wholly unfair, he claimed. The judge dismissed allegations that the former minister had lied, but scathingly described part of his evidence as "little above gibberish".

But even after the court judgment, Mr Byers still has hanging over him the issue of evidence he gave to the Commons Transport Committee in November 2001, when he said that he was not aware of any discussion in his department about Railtrack's future status before the company collapsed. In court he admitted that the answer was "untrue", adding: "I cannot remember the motives behind it."

Mr Byers insisted yesterday there is a distinction between telling a deliberate lie and mistakenly saying something that is untrue, and said he would "very much welcome" an inquiry by the Commons Standards Committee.

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