Whelan leaves Treasury to become chat-show host

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The Independent Online
CHARLIE WHELAN, Gordon Brown's spin-doctor finally department Whitehall last night to start a new career as a chat show host on BBC Radio Five Live.

The rumbustious Mr Whelan, forced to resign his Whitehall post by Downing Street to end the feuding between the Brown and Blair camps, will have a Sunday show. He saidlast night: "London is full of Oxbridge types who want to categorise me as some Jack the Lad sleazebag. But I am a victim of my own spin."

Around Westminster, Peter Mandelson is seen as Mr Whelan's main scalp. But as he cleared his desk, he claimed responsibility for sinking Tory plans to build a new Royal Yacht for over pounds 60m; the sacking of Ron Atkinson as Coventry City football club's manager through the ex-Treasury minister Geoffrey Robinson, a director of the club; and setting up the "family man" photographs of Mr Brown with his girlfriend Sarah Macaulay.

Mr Whelan, 44, a fanatical Tottenham Hotspur supporter, is also planning a football column and is in talks with Channel 4 about a sports series.

A number of senior cabinet ministers who accused Mr Whelan of secretly briefing against them to build up Mr Brown's public image, may be glad to see him go. But he could now be free to air his views about them on radio. Tony Blair said at the weekend that Downing Street was powerless to stop him writing a book, because it is understood he did not sign a gagging order.

As a radio presenter, he could cause as much controversy as he has around the Whitehall. He will review political events in the week's press - one of the daily tasks he has performed for the Chancellor.

Although Downing Street had wanted him to leave his pounds 50,000-a-year post as quickly as possible, there may be a twinge of regret when he begins broadcasting views that were previously limited to off-the-record briefings.