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Sunday, November 8, 1998 Published at 08:54 GMT


Profile: Nick Brown

Mr Brown: Known as a skilled negotiator

As a former chief whip, Nick Brown has been privy to many of the secrets of his Labour colleagues.

Now details of his own private life are making headlines after a former partner attempted to sell the story about their relationship.

Mr Brown, the agriculture minister, has been described by friends as affable, bright and articulate.

Despite this pleasant demeanour, he reportedly conveyed an air of quiet menace as chief whip in order to keep Labour MPs in line during crucial Commons votes.

Front bencher

The 48-year-old MP has represented Newcastle upon Tyne East since 1983, and has served on Labour's front bench since 1985.

A stint as Labour's front bench spokesman on legal affairs preceded a spell on the shadow Treasury team under the late John Smith.

He also deputised for Margaret Beckett as the shadow leader of the House after 1992 and was number two to Donald Dewar in the Opposition whips' office before the general election.

Skilled negotiator

Nicknamed Newcastle Brown, he canvassed support for Gordon Brown to stand in the 1994 Labour leadership election.

Mr Brown is thought to have angered Tony Blair by providing material for the chancellor's unauthorised biography charting Mr Brown's leadership ambitions.

He was given his current job in July in what was regarded by many political observers as a sideways move.

The prime minister was said to have chosen him because he wanted someone with "proven negotiating skills".

These have been put to full use in his fraught negotiations with the rest of the European Union to get the ban on exports of British beef lifted.

Recent duties have also included work on scrapping the UK's quarantine laws for new anti-rabies legislation which will require the use of "pet passports".

Mr Brown has also been active in putting pressure on supermarket chains to show more sympathy for Britain's struggling farmers by urging the retailers not to drive down produce prices.

Prior to his career at Westminster Mr Brown began his working life as as an advertising executive.

Having initially extolled the virtues of Ariel washing powder, he turned a fabric softener into a household name with the slogan: "Providing housewives with a softness and freshness they have never known before."

He cut short his advertising career to move into management in a chain of launderettes, but moved on to work as a legal adviser to the GMB union.

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