The former cabinet minister Mo Mowlam was accused of having "sold her soul" by Labour MPs last night because she will use her memoirs to expose the rift between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
A bitter counter-attack was launched by government loyalists against reports that Ms Mowlam would use both a forthcoming television documentary and her book serialisation to highlight what she calls a "destructive" feud between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.
Although both the book and the programme have been long anticipated, Downing Street is furious at the timing of the book's publication, on the eve of the local elections on 2 May, and at the leak of the television programme's contents yesterday, ahead of Wednesday's Budget.
MPs normally loyal to Ms Mowlam are also dismayed that she chose the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday for a highly lucrative serialisation.
The Channel 4 documentary, entitled Mo Mowlam: Inside New Labour, will feature the former Northern Ireland secretary arguing that Mr Brown should be sacked as Chancellor if the feud with Mr Blair continues.
Ms Mowlam, who also served as Minister for the Cabinet Office, will attack the "vicious, violent, appalling behaviour" of those who briefed against her while she was in Belfast. When asked about stories that suggested her illness from a brain tumour had affected her ability to do her job, she blamed Labour's "spin machine".
She told the documentary: "My health was used against me all the way through the whispering campaign that I thought was damned well disgusting. They'll stop at nothing ... Some might say that's politics. I think it's despicable."
Ms Mowlam's comments about the Chancellor were what upset his supporters the most. "If their relationship continues as destructively as it is now, I think the only way forward is for the Prime Minister to move him to another job," she said. Downing Street, which has seen an advance copy of the memoirs, said the accusations of briefings by Number 10 had been made many times in the past but they were simply not true.
An official spokesman for Mr Blair said: "It is very sad that she makes these claims about a government of which she was a member and for which the Prime Minister believes she did a very good job."
Labour MPs were more forthright, with one backbencher claiming that most of Ms Mowlam's former colleagues were angry she had sold her story to the "highest bidder" even though the Mail was a Tory-supporting paper.Reuse content