Sleaze claim over photo of minister and youth

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Indy Politics

The Government was accused of being embroiled in a fresh sleaze controversy by Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home Secretary, after reports that the former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson had a picture of a cabinet minister and a young person in a "compromising position".

The Government was accused of being embroiled in a fresh sleaze controversy by Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home Secretary, after reports that the former paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson had a picture of a cabinet minister and a young person in a "compromising position".

Friends of Mr Robinson said the ex-Treasury minister was bitter about being left out in the cold by Downing Street while Peter Mandelson had been restored to the Cabinet by Tony Blair as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Both ministers were brought down by the disclosure that Mr Robinson had loaned Mr Mandelson £373,000 for a house in Notting Hill but Mr Robinson has been left on the back benches.

Downing Street last night denied Mr Robinson had been treated like a "leper" and a party source said: "We are pretty relaxed about these reports."

The existence of the compromising photographs of a minister was disclosed, according to The Sunday Times , to warn off allies of Tony Blair and Mr Mandelson from continuing excessive threats against Mr Robinson to tone down his memoir, The Unconventional Minister , before it is published next year.

Ms Widdecombe said the affair was another example of the Government's sleaze and evidence that Mr Blair was losing control of his government.

She told GMTV's The Sunday Programme with Alastair Stewart:"This is the Tony Blair who before the last election said they were going to be whiter than white, purer than pure, but they have packed in more sleaze in 18 months than we did in 18 years.

"And now we have got these fresh allegations, the truth of which I cannot possibly determine. It is a childish display because of a clash of personalities in the Labour Party, and Britain is suffering from it. Tony Blair gives the impression of being a man who talks tough but he is very much out of control of his own party."

The controversy is worrying for Mr Blair because it shows that feuding supporters of Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, and Mr Mandelson refuse to allow their personal animosities to subside.

A cabinet minister said: "It's very damaging. They don't seem to care about the damage it is doing to the Government and the party. It is all about settling their own personal scores."

Fingers were pointing at Charlie Whelan, the Chancellor's former press adviser, who had lunch last week with Eben Black, who wrote the report in The Sunday Times.

But Mr Whelan told friends he was not responsible for the latest revelations. A Downing Street spokesman said: "Given that so much speculation about this book has already proved to be wide of the mark, we have no comment to make whatsoever."

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