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Saturday, January 16, 1999 Published at 19:00 GMT

UK Politics

The author of political scandal

Mandelson told friends not to co-operate with the book

By BBC News Online's John Walton

Mirror journalist Paul Routledge is responsible for causing the government more trouble than the Tories.

The revelations in his new unauthorised biography of Peter Mandelson helped cause the resignation of the former Trade Secretary, and the Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson just before Christmas.

The disclosure that Mandelson received a £373,000 loan from his friend and ministerial colleague gave the government its worst run of publicity since the last time Roultedge published a book - a semi-official biography of the Chancellor Gordon Brown which came out in 1998.

[ image: Paul Routledge the author of nobody's downfall]
Paul Routledge the author of nobody's downfall
But Routledge feels that he is not responsible for Mandelson's fall from grace - after all he did not lend him the money. "I'm not the author of Peter Mandelson's downfall," he says, "I'm the author of a book."

Understandably there is no love lost between the former trade secretary and his biographer who told BBC News Online: "The book was not just written without the co-operation of Peter Mandelson - he actually told his friends not to talk to me."

Mr Routledge sees this as a shame as he missed out on talking to some of the cast in the Mandelson story.

King of spin?

The Mirror journalist also considers Peter Mandelson's reputation to be "overblown" saying that when he found himself in trouble, "he wasn't able to spin his way out of it, was he?"

He also says that Labour's former director of communications was not as influential on the Labour Party whilst in opposition as some believe. Routledge now thinks that any ambitions Mr Mandelson may have had of becoming Labour leader must be considered "dead" after his resignation.

Writing the Mandelson biography, Routledge says, was a natural step after finishing his semi-official biography of the chancellor because the political lives of the two men are so closely intertwined.

Portrait of the chancellor

The Brown biography is often credited with bringing the public's attention to the bitterness the chancellor was said to have felt at Mandelson's decision to betray him in the 1994 Labour leadership contest that followed the death of John Smith.

[ image: Charlie Whelan's resignation followed Mandelson's]
Charlie Whelan's resignation followed Mandelson's
Mandelson, a former ally of Brown, chose to lend his influential support to the shadow home secretary Tony Blair, instead of Brown, citing Blair's southern appeal as one of the main reasons.

The book also told of the chancellor's distress at missing out on the Labour leadership to his close friend, providing the media with enough material to speculate on possible, future or past splits, spats and divisions within the Labour Cabinet.

Friendly fire

Routledge, it is said, is a supporter of Brown and an old Labour traditionalist, but his scoops have not just spelt mayhem for those he disagrees with.

[ image: The Brown biography hit the headlines in 1998]
The Brown biography hit the headlines in 1998
He foresaw the forced resignation of the chancellor's press secretary Charlie Whelan, his close friend and source, and even tried to have the details of the Mandelson loan taken out of his book, but to no avail.

When The Guardian got hold of the story, which it says it says it gained independently of Routledge, Whelan was widely suspected as Routledge's source for the story and after intense speculation he came to the conclusion that his position as the chancellor's messenger was damaged beyond repair.

Routledge is now The Mirror's chief political commentator where he takes on the role of 'Mr Angry' attacking the government with an old Labour agenda.

He was born in Yorkshire in 1943 and started his career as a journalist on a number of local papers after finishing his degree in English at Nottingham University.

He took his first job on a national daily at The Times in 1969. He remained at the paper as industrial correspondent, until the mass sackings triggered by its move to Wapping caused a strike lasting from 1985-86. He lost his job after refusing to cross the picket line.

As well writing biographies on Mandelson and Brown, Routledge has also tackled the Speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd, and miners' leader Arthur Scargill.

During the miners' strike, led by Scargill, the Queen toured offices of The Times and was introduced to the paper's industrial correspondent, where she ventured the opinion that the highly divisive strike was the responsibility of one man.

Routledge passed on the information to another journalist and headlines were made across the world.

Whether or not his biography of Peter Mandelson will be the definitive one remains to be seen.

One thing is certain though - it will not be the last because Routledge's friend, the Independent journalist Don Macintyre, already has another on the way.

Mandy, the unauthorised biography, is published by Simon & Schuster on 18 January

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