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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Roger Liddle, centre stage once more
Roger Liddle
Roger Liddle: Remarks leaked more than once
Nyta Mann

Downing Street adviser, SDP defector and long-time friend of Peter Mandelson, Roger Liddle has a small but pronounced habit of finding his private remarks splashed over the newspapers.

His reported comments on a supposed "target date" for a referendum on joining the euro are only mildly troublesome for the government.

In fact they serve its purpose in technically keeping alive the prospect of a referendum before the next election, while many commentators believe it highly unlikely a poll will happen in this parliament.

That he is very much a pro-single currency Europhile is also far from being any kind of secret.

In 1996 he co-authored with Mr Mandelson The Blair Revolution. In it the two men championed a European Union "of deeper economic integration among nation-states bound together by common rules and united by a clear social purpose".

On the euro, they wrote that "the single currency is the natural complement to a single market".

'Lobbygate' role

But Mr Liddle's after-dinner comments on the subject are mild stuff compared with his biggest outing centre-stage from behind the scenes at Downing Street.

Peter Hain
Europe Minister Peter Hain: Forced to deny reports of a target date for euro poll
That came in the summer of 1998 when the Observer newspaper broke the cash-for-access "lobbygate" scandal.

Derek Draper, the onetime aide and bag-carrier to Mr Mandelson, and who by this point was making big bucks working as a lobbyist trading on his Labour connections, was caught telling a businessman that in exchange for money he would open government doors to him.

The "businessman" turned out to be an undercover journalist and one door Draper showed him to was that of Roger Liddle, Tony Blair's Downing Street adviser on Europe.

Asked by the "businessman" to demonstrate his close connections with the people running the country, Draper pressed Mr Liddle into service.

Mr Liddle was quoted telling the journalist: "There is a circle and Derek is part of the circle ... Whenever you are ready, tell me what you want, who you want to meet, and Derek and I will make the call for you."

It was dynamite stuff, one of the early "Tony's cronies", New Labour sleaze scandals, seriously destabilising to Downing Street - not to mention Mr Liddle's own position in the policy unit there.

The consensus is that it was only the fact that his reported remark was not tape recorded that saved him being sacrificed.

In the thick of it

Mr Liddle is far from a stranger to being in the thick of things, though.

He was a special adviser to Bill Rodgers - also, of course, later an SDP defector - when he was transport secretary in the 1970s Callaghan government.

A fellow Lambeth councillor with Peter Mandelson, Mr Liddle was a founder member of the breakaway SDP in 1981, serving on its national committee until 1986.

He contested the parliamentary seat of Vauxhaull for the SDP in the 1983 general election and Fulham in the 1986 by-election.

He joined the Social and Liberal Democrats after the 1988 merger between the Liberals and all but the Owenite rump of the SDP, and fought Hertfordshire North for the Liberal Democrats in the 1992 election.

Mandelson's co-author

He was a member of the Lib Dems' federal policy committee for most of the period between 1988 and 1995 and was the author of the party's 1994 Euro-elections manifesto.

He defected back to New Labour once Mr Blair was in place as leader. Throughout his passage through his many parties, though, he remained close friends with Mr Mandelson.

In the June general election, following the former cabinet minister's second fall from grace, Mr Liddle helped him campaign in Hartlepool.

Needless to say, both these things - his double defection and matey-ness with the "prince of darkness" - mean he is a deeply suspicious figure as far as some non-Blairite parts of the Labour Party are concerned.

If in the future his leaked private comments ever do succeed in getting him the sack from Number Ten, the celebrations would not be confined to Conservatives.

See also:

26 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Euro target date denied
03 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair's euro chances talked up
30 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Hain hints about euro entry
11 Jul 98 | UK Politics
Draper sold meetings with Mandelson
07 Jul 98 | UK Politics
Stand-off in row over cash-for-access
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