Tories call on PM to sack aide after fund admission

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair came under pressure last night to sack his most senior aide after the Labour Party admitted he had approached Geoffrey Robinson to contribute money to the Labour Party.

Tony Blair came under pressure last night to sack his most senior aide after the Labour Party admitted he had approached Geoffrey Robinson to contribute money to the Labour Party.

Tim Collins, a vicechairman of the Tory party, said it was "wholly unethical" for Jonathan Powell, as the Prime Minister's chief of staff and "the gatekeeper to the Prime Minister" to be a "party political fund-raiser". Mr Collins said: "Following this devastating admission, Mr Powell should now consider his position immediately or the Prime Minister should act to clean up Downing Street and remove this man from his inner circle."

Labour admitted in a statement that Mr Powell had approached the former Treasury minister, who was forced to resign after lending Peter Mandelson £373,000, seeking to persuade him to pay an undisclosed sum to the party before the last general election.

No 10 was repeatedly challenged last week over these so-called blind funds, which funded Mr Blair's office in Opposition, because of claims by Mr Robinson that he donated money to it. But party officials have been adamant that, while Mr Robinson contributed to the Labour Party before the last general election, he did not pay for Mr Blair's office directly.

However, the disclosure undermines previous assurances by Downing Street that Mr Blair and his closest aides were never directly involved in fund-raising, or even knew the names of the party's most significant donor.

Labour said in a statement: "In the run-up to the general election, as part of his role in liaising with the Labour Party over election planning, Jonathan Powell had discussed, perfectly legitimately, with Geoffrey Robinson whether he could contribute to the Labour Party's general election campaign fund, not the Labour leader's office fund. In the end, he did not do so."

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