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Thursday, January 14, 1999 Published at 14:42 GMT

UK Politics

Whelan denies ill feeling at the top

Charlie Whelan: "The Labour government does not need me"

The chancellor's former press secretary Charlie Whelan has insisted no ill feelings exist at the top level of the Labour Party.

In an interview for BBC Radio 4's World At One, Mr Whelan said there was no animosity between the former Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson and Gordon Brown.

A memo leaked to a newspaper last week suggested Mr Mandelson had urged Mr Brown, Mr Whelan's former boss, to stand aside for Tony Blair during the race to lead the Labour Party in 1994.

[ image: There is no ill feeling in Labour, says Mr Whelan]
There is no ill feeling in Labour, says Mr Whelan
But Mr Whelan said nobody thought Mr Mandelson had betrayed Mr Brown.

The former press secretary repeated his assertion that he decided to resign as the chancellor's spin doctor because he had become bigger than the stories he was supposed to promote.

Mr Whelan, who will present a new show on BBC Radio 5 Live, was the latest casualty from the revelation that Mr Mandelson borrowed £373,000 from former Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson.

Charlie Whelan: "No ill feelings"
Both ministers resigned from the government on 23 December following the leak which later cost Mr Whelan his job.

He said a combination of a lack of news over the festive period and that he is seen as "a bit of a character" magnified the story.

Mr Whelan said: "It was a great whodunnit, it was a great story. Who shot Peter Mandelson?"

He went on to described Mr Mandelson as a brilliant strategist, saying: "He's the man who recruited me to work for Gordon Brown so he clearly has something going for him."

Charlie Whelan: "I'm 100% loyal to the Labour government"
The former press secretary said: "It's true Peter and me didn't go down for a pint down Red Lion after work but that doesn't mean I didn't admire him and respect him."

He said he was 100% loyal to the Labour government as well as his former boss.

Mr Whelan said: "The idea you are loyal to somebody rather than the government they represent is ridiculous."

[ image: Peter Mandelson borrowed £373,000 to buy his home]
Peter Mandelson borrowed £373,000 to buy his home
He denied that being on a mobile phone in the Red Lion pub in Whitehall was his style or that he had made attacks on other government ministers.

But the art of spin doctoring was a fact of life, Mr Whelan said.

The growth of continuous news and more political programmes had made the job a modern necessity.

He added: "If I'm mischievous to damage the Tory party and support a Labour government, then yes."

However, the government would survive without him and the man whose downfall precipitated his own.

He said: "The Labour government does not need me and Peter Mandelson.

"The Labour government has got Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, John Prescott and they're the people who matter."

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