Gould questions Mellor's future

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DAVID MELLOR and the Prime Minister need to make 'a crude political calculation' over whether the Secretary of State for National Heritage can still do the job, Bryan Gould, his opposite number, said yesterday.

Mr Gould made it clear he had no wish to see Mr Mellor hounded out of office. But his comment is notable as the first Opposition statement judging that Mr Mellor may not survive.

To date, senior Labour politicians have treated Mr Mellor's difficulties - exposure of an affair with an actress and criticism of his relationship with a businessman - as a purely private matter. Mr Gould, interviewed on TV- am's Even on Sunday, said he believed Mr Mellor was 'very near the point of no return'.

He said he had a lot of sympathy for Mr Mellor. 'I have felt throughout it is a good thing if he survives.'

But he added: 'I think there is now a crude political calculation to be made by David Mellor and the Prime Minister as to whether someone whose reputation has not been damaged, however unfairly, can now perform that job.'

Mr Mellor may face fresh difficulties this week when the People plans to subpoena him as a witness in a libel case being brought by Mona Bauwens, daughter of the chairman of the Palestine National Fund, linked to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

A Mori poll conducted in Mr Mellor's Putney constituency for the Mail on Sunday showed more than two to one believing he should not resign. A majority, however, believed the publicity had done the Government some damage.