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Sunday, 28 January, 2001, 01:04 GMT
Mandelson vows to clear his name
Peter Mandelson and his pet dog Bobby
Pet dog Bobby has bought his owner some comfort
Peter Mandelson has promised to fight to clear his name over the Hinduja passport affair.

Writing in The Sunday Times, the former Northern Ireland secretary gives his version of events - but in doing so raises far more questions than he answers.

Mr Mandelson insists that at no time did he remember having made a phone call to Immigration Minister Mike O'Brien about the passport application.


I felt isolated

Peter Mandelson
It was the discrepancy between his claim that the call was handled by his private office and Mr O'Brien's recollection that he had made the call that came back to haunt Mr Mandelson.

He says his mistake was to speak before establishing all the facts. In his article he recalls the order of events, beginning on 22 January.

  • Monday: Having told Downing Street that he had not made the call himself, he was forced to reverse his story when Mr O'Brien contradicted him.

    He then appeared to change it again when he declared on BBC Two's Newsnight that "I didn't forget anything".

    In what looks set to become a classic quote in the annals of political explanations, Mr Mandelson writes in The Sunday Times: "By this I meant that I didn't deliberately forget to mention it, rather that I didn't actually recall it."

    At the time, he said, he had been preoccupied with Northern Ireland, not the Hindujas, and had gone into a round of TV interviews at 10 minutes' notice, without agreeing a line with Mr Campbell.

  • Wednesday: Mr Mandelson said he was told when he arrived for his meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair that he had decided to set up an independent inquiry into the facts of the Hinduja case.

    He said they agreed that damage could be done to a government preparing for an election in the time it would take to complete the investigation.

    Srichand Hinduja
    Srichand Hinduja: Passport application led to Mandelson's downfall
    "For the first time and I hope the last time in my life, the fight suddenly went out of me. I felt isolated," he recalled in the paper.

    "I knew I hadn't done anything wrong but I had no time to prove it."

    He offered to resign and Mr Blair "understandably" did nothing to persuade him to stay, he said.

    "I should have fought for time to allow a fuller examination of the facts," he added.

  • Friday: Mr Mandelson said he contacted a former Cabinet Office civil servant, who told him that his assistant private secretary clearly remembered the incident.

    She said that she had phoned the Home Office, not Mr Mandelson.

    Another private secretary had checked her records and found no reference to Mr Mandelson personally calling Mr O'Brien.

    He said that following this reassurance, he was able to go to his constituency party that night and say that he planned to fight to clear his name and wanted to remain their candidate for the upcoming general election.

    Yet he also writes in the Sunday Times: "Of course, nobody could say categorically that such a call [from Mr Mandelson to Mr O'Brien] had not taken place."


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    27 Jan 01 | UK Politics
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