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Monday, 17 July, 2000, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
Where is the leak weak link?
Number Ten Downing Street
A mole at the heart of Downing Street?
Tony Blair's memo to colleagues and aides appealing for "eye-catching initiatives" to regain the political agenda is the latest in a series of government documents to have entered the public domain and caused ministerial red faces.

The leaks have prompted speculation that there are forces at work in Whitehall who are less than neutral to the "Blair project".

Downing Street's hasty establishment of a "leak inquiry" headed by the most senior civil servant, Sir Richard Wilson, shows how seriously the government is taking the latest security lapse.

John Prescott
A letter penned by the Deputy PM was leaked this month
A look at Whitehall computer systems should perhaps be high on his agenda, as it appears the most recent leaks may have come after email accounts were accessed.

Only days ago, The Guardian revealed the contents of emails sent by Tony Blair's assistant Anji Hunter to Number 10 staff, which revealed that government aides tried to manage BBC reporter Michael Cockerell's access to meetings during his filming of the documentary profiling Mr Blair's press secretary, Alistair Campbell.

William Hague said the latest leak showed Tony Blair was "rattled".

He is not the only one.

Last week leaked correspondence disclosed that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott suggested in Cabinet that a weekly inquest should be held into why the government has lost its grip on the media.

Two euro leaks in one

Then government splits over strategy in the euro were thrown into relief after two leaks in the space of 24 hours predicted dire consequences if Britain stayed outside the single currency.

It seemed a coincidence too far.

One memo was sent to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, the other to Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Byers - both pro-European cabinet ministers.

In May, a document along the same navel-gazing lines as the Blair memo found its way into the newspapers.

Labour's poll supremo Philip Gould wrote in a response to a draft of the prime minister's speech to the Women's Institute that the speech was "condescending" and may make the PM "look rather sad".

'Lacks conviction'

Like Mr Blair, he said the government was regarded as "soft on crime", and warned that the electorate think "TB lacks conviction, he's all spin and presentation, he's just saying things to please people not because he believes them. TB has not delivered. He is out of touch".

In May, we discovered Mr Blair shared these concerns.

A note from Clare Sumner, who helps Mr Blair prepare for his weekly session of Prime Minister's questions, revealed that he felt vulnerable facing William Hague at the despatch box.

"On elephant traps you should advise the PM what to say, but also what not to say," a follow-up email instructed.

At the moment, someone, or some people, in government appear to be setting all the elephant traps themselves.

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See also:

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