Press watchdog refuses to quit over criticism of Blair

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Sir Christopher Meyer - the man attacked as a "fop in red socks" by John Prescott - has rejected the calls led by the Deputy Prime Minister for him to resign as the watchdog for the press over his memoirs.

Sir Christopher, the former British ambassador to Washington, criticised Mr Prescott and other ministers in his memoirs, DC Confidential. In extracts published in two national newspapers he accused Tony Blair of being "seduced" by the power of the White House in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

His disclosures of confidential conversations, including pre-breakfast briefings with the former Prime Minister John Major in his underpants, sparked an extraordinary personal attack by Mr Prescott on Sir Christopher.

Last night Sir Christopher, who is now chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, hit back in a letter to Mr Prescott saying: "I intend to continue to carry out my duties as I have sought to discharge them in the last two-and-three-quarter years: impartially, independently and effectively."

Sir Christopher said the scene with Sir John Major was first revealed in a book by Tony Blair's wife. "The scene concerned first appeared last year in the book The Goldfish Bowl by Cherie Booth and Cate Haste.

"You say that the public will also have little confidence in my chairing the PCC impartially when they know that I have sat down and negotiated financial deals with the editors of newspapers I am supposed to regulate.

"But neither I nor my agent was involved in the negotiations about the serialisation rights. All such discussions were conducted by the publishers, specifically in order to avoid any conflict of interest arising on my part," Sir Christopher said.

"I made the decision to take no money personally from the serialisation. The proceeds will be given in three equal parts to three children's charities.

"I do not believe that the contents of my book prevent me from acting as chairman of the PCC and interpreting the Code of Practice in accordance with past decisions of the Commission."

The Deputy Prime Minister in his open letter to Sir Christopher said the disclosures compromised his role as chairman of the independent Press Complaints Commission and he should resign. He said Sir Christopher was known around Washington as the "fop in red socks".

Other ministers including Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, also said he should consider his position as head of the PCC, which has to adjudicate on complaints of press intrusion. He was vilified by former senior civil servants for breaking the unwritten code of confidence.

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