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Tory leakers caught out by a leak

WHEN THE euphoria at Tory successes in last May's local government elections had subsided, the movers and shakers at Central Office decided that it was time to get down to business. Representatives from councils where the Conservatives had gained control were summoned to a working lunch at Smith Square.

Angela Rumbold, the deputy party chairman, and John Redwood, the local government minister, were wheeled out to lecture their provincial colleagues on some unusual strategies for retaining power.

Among the subjects covered at the brainstorming session on 22 June, according to inside sources, was the necessity to take journalists out to lunch and write their stories for them, because 'all journalists are lazy', and the political mileage to be gained from judicious leaks to the press.

Perhaps the big guns at Central Office did not explain themselves properly. Picture their dismay when, two weeks later, notes of the meeting taken by a Wolverhampton councillor, Roseanne Williams, were leaked to the local Express and Star newspaper.

A memo which she had prepared for the leader of the council had, according to Ms Williams, been taken from the Conservative members' room at the town hall and passed to an indolent member of the fourth estate.

The good folk of Wolverhampton thus learned that their newly- elected members had been advised, among other things, to use the post-election honeymoon period to blame Labour for any problems and to avoid offering services that could be provided by the private or voluntary sectors.

Central Office admitted last night that it was disconcerted by the leak. 'No blame attaches to councillor Williams, but it's a very unhelpful situation and we need to point out the dangers of these things,' a spokesman said. 'It was a fairly innocuous matter, but it could be something more important next time.'

The spokesman confirmed much of the reported content of the meeting, which he described as 'a routine gathering to put new councils in the picture', but hotly denied the slur on the press.

'That's a load of crap, is it not?' he said. 'It is certainly not the view of Central Office that journalists are lazy. That is the sort of idle remark which you hear in the pub.'

Ms Williams said that she was 'very annoyed' about the leak and claimed that parts of her memo had been misconstrued - 'but I'm not telling you which'.

The press officer at Wolverhampton Borough Council refused to comment, saying that her role was 'politically restricted'.