Queen knew of Blair's heart problem before scare, says undercover servant

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Indy Politics

Fresh questions were raised about Tony Blair's health yesterday after the Queen was reported to have said she knew he had a heart problem before his scare last month.

The Queen's reported remark is the second time that Downing Street's account of the Prime Minister's scare has been called into question. The former United States president Bill Clinton was reported to have made similar remarks after Mr Blair was treated at Hammersmith Hospital in London to correct an irregular heartbeat.

The latest flurry of speculation was sparked when the Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry, who exposed lax security at Buckingham Palace by gaining a job as a footman, claimed he had been told of the Queen's reaction to Mr Blair's scare a month ago. Steve Niger, a page to the Queen, reportedly told Parry: "She's very concerned about Blair. She told me, 'I do hope it's not too serious. He told me he's had similar complications in the past'."

In isolation, yesterday's claim would not be regarded as serious. But it appeared to confirm Mr Clinton's remarks in the aftermath of Mr Blair's hospital treatment. He told the Sunday Mirror: "I've known about this for a long time. He told me about it quite a few years ago.

"As soon as I heard what happened I called to check he was OK ... He told me it was no big deal. But I knew the moment I heard what must have happened."

Since the former president's remarks were reported, there has been persistent speculation in Labour circles that Mr Blair had a heart problem before last month's scare. Some Labour insiders have even drawn a parallel with the television series The West Wing in which a US president covers up his multiple sclerosis, provoking a crisis and official censure motion.

Downing Street is sticking to the statement it issued last month, when it said Mr Blair had never suffered an irregular heartbeat before and had never had a heart condition. Asked about the Mirror account of the Queen's remarks, Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "The Queen has not given an interview to the Daily Mirror. I am not going to be drawn on a third-hand account of a conversation that may or may not have happened."

The spokesman added: "We said all that needs to be said at the time of his problem."