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Thursday, December 24, 1998 Published at 06:43 GMT

UK Politics

Press roasts Labour

Christmas has come early for Fleet Street editors who have been feasting on the political carcasses of former Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson and Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson.

Mr Mandelson, whose spin doctoring has infuriated countless journalists, is portrayed as a roast turkey on the front page of The Sun under the headline "Stuffed".

The UK's biggest-selling paper switched its support from the Tories to Labour a month before last year's General Election after extensive wooing by Mr Mandelson and his colleagues at Millbank Tower.

But Sun Editor David Yelland is clearly having fun at Mr Mandelson's expense.

Roasted by The Sun

The paper claims credit for his departure, saying he quit after receiving a "roasting" from the paper on Wednesday.

Mr Mandelson told friends he decided to resign after "the papers" came out against him on Wednesday. The Sun, under the headline "So how the Hell can Mandy stay?", quoted a statement from the Prime Minister Tony Blair in July in which he said the government must be "purer than pure".

Elsewhere, The Mirror quotes Mr Blair as describing Mr Mandelson as "bloody dazzling" but says he had to go.

Mr Blair believes the government's credibility is at stake and reportedly told a friend: "The vital thing is people don't think we're like the last lot."

The Guardian leads with the headline "Goodbye ... for now" and looks at the way the story of the loan came out.

[ image: Paul Routledge, author of this book on Gordon Brown, first spotted the Robinson loan]
Paul Routledge, author of this book on Gordon Brown, first spotted the Robinson loan
It says the loan was mentioned in the proofs of a new biography of Mr Mandelson by Paul Routledge, a Mirror journalist who earlier this year published a semi-authorised biography of Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The Guardian says when the story broke leading Blairites claimed Mr Brown's press secretary Charlie Whelan was responsible for leaking it to the media.

It says the Brown camp knew Mr Robinson was politically "on his last legs" and was willing to sacrifice him to get Mr Mandelson.

There are few surprises from the traditionally Tory press.

The Express carries the banner headline: "Blair's day of disaster", the Daily Mail dubs it "The purge" while The Times describes it as "New Labour's darkest day".

'Propaganda blow'

The Daily Telegraph says Mr Blair is shattered by the loss of his "chief propagandist".

The Telegraph also delves into the mystery of the former Trade Secretary's mortgage application form.

It points out Mr Mandelson said he had "no idea" whether he had disclosed the £373,000 loan when he applied for a mortgage from the Britannia Building Society.

The paper then goes on to quote Britannia spokeswoman Joanne Hine who points out a mortgage application is a legal contract and incorrectly filling it in can be construed as fraud.

The Telegraph also highlights a "curious coincidence": that the new parliamentary commissioner for standards, Elizabeth Filkin, is a non-executive director of Britannia.

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