Monday, January 4, 1999 Published at 13:36 GMT
Spin doctor to resign
Charlie Whelan: Will leave when replacement is found
Chancellor Gordon Brown's press secretary Charlie Whelan has announced he will give up his job as soon as an "appropriate opportunity" becomes available.
But, in a statement explaining his actions, he said he could not longer carry on at his present job.
"I want to make it absolutely clear that I was not responsible for disclosing any information about Peter Mandelson's mortgage and I refute any suggestion that I was.
"It is absurd that, on the day the euro starts trading, in the week the Monetary Policy Committee is meeting and when the chancellor is working on a number of important initiatives for the New Year that there is such attention focused on me.
Speculation has surrounded Mr Whelan's future at the Treasury following the row over the downfall of former trade secretary Peter Mandelson.
Mr Mandelson quit after it was revealed he had received a secret loan of £373,000 from then paymaster general Geoffrey Robinson to help buy his London home. Mr Robinson also resigned.
Like Mr Mandelson and Mr Robinson before him, Mr Whelan left his job still insisting he had done nothing wrong.
He was backed in this view by Prime Minister Tony Blair's press secretary who said there was "no evidence" Mr Whelan had leaked against the former trade secretary.
The Downing Street spokesman added that he did not believe Mr Whelan was the source.
But some Cabinet ministers had been reported to have been demanding Mr Whelan's resignation.
Downing Street had moved to distance the prime minister from the row, saying: "It is a matter entirely for the chancellor as to who he employs".
The Mirror denies that the memo was leaked to journalist Paul Routledge by his close friend Charlie Whelan.
Leader of the House Margaret Beckett rounded on those attacking Mr Whelan.
"When people get cross about some of the things that happen they look for people to blame and the flak flies.
"But the government works well together as a whole and that includes the Treasury team."
Despite government moves to kill the story, Conservatives say that continuing row has exposed civil war at the heart of New Labour.
Shadow Trade Secretary John Redwood said: "Now the Brownites will be looking at a way of fighting back.
"If the man who didn't leak the home-loan story has to resign, will the prime minister now organise a proper leak inquiry to find out who did do it and sack him or her?"
Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Malcolm Bruce welcomed Mr Whelan's decision and said he should now leave his present job as speedily as possible.
UK Politics Contents
A-Z of Parliament