Straw questions Meyer's press watchdog role after 'breach of trust' in memoirs

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Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, condemned the book as "unacceptable", claiming it had caused great concern across the diplomatic service and questioned whether Sir Christopher could continue as head of the press watchdog.

Downing Street expressed "distaste" for the book, which includes a string of damaging claims about Tony Blair.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, and the First Division Association, the union representing senior civil servants, also criticised the book, which has been serialised in two newspapers.

The book, DC Confidential, was cleared for publication by the Cabinet Office without changes under rules governing publications by former civil servants.

In the memoirs Sir Christopher, the former British ambassador to Washington, claimed Mr Blair was "seduced" by American power and failed to use his influence to shape US policy on Iraq or to prevent war. He revealed that Sir John Major, when he was Prime Minister, used to fulminate about the newspapers in his shirt-tails during morning briefings in his Downing Street bedroom.

Mr Straw told the BBC: "I think it is completely unacceptable for someone like Christopher Meyer to break trust in the way that he has done. It undermines the key relationship between civil servants and ministers. It has led to very great concern, I may say, among the whole of the diplomatic service."

He added: "I feel much more angry about the way in which Christopher Meyer has broken quite detailed personal confidences he obviously had with John and Norma Major than anything he said about me.

"The behaviour in which he talked about the underwear [Sir John] was wearing is just preposterous and very demeaning."

"It also raises questions about his role as chairman of the PCC. What are people supposed to do? He is in the newspapers saying controversial things. If people want to complain to the newspapers about what he has said, who do they complain to?"

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The best person to talk about this is the head of the Civil Service, Sir Gus O'Donnell ... and I think Sir Gus has made clear his view, his distaste for this kind of book."

Alan Keen, a Labour member of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, called on Sir Christopher to consider his position on the PCC. He told the BBC: "How can you trust someone who writes reports of speaking to the Prime Minister when he was in his underpants, it just lowers the whole tenor of it."

Sir Menzies said: "The kind of detail that Sir Christopher has provided could inhibit frankness and damage relations."

A spokesman for the PCC said: "If anyone did complain about the serialisation, then Sir Christopher would not play any part in the investigation or decisions."

A spokesman for Sir Christopher said that he did not wish to comment.