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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 05:17 GMT 06:17 UK
Mandelson reveals Blair's pain
Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson resigned twice

Former minister Peter Mandelson has told the BBC about the moment when Tony Blair demanded his resignation over the Hinduja passport affair.

Mr Mandelson recalled how he told the prime minister that his career and even his life would be destroyed by a second resignation from the Cabinet.

But despite looking "pained", Mr Blair said he had no other option than demanding that Mr Mandelson step down as Northern Ireland secretary.

In his interview with Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan for the BBC One Tabloid Tales programme, Mr Mandelson admitted the 373,000 home-loan from fellow MP Geoffrey Robinson which led to his first resignation in 1998 was "a legitimate story".

But he said he had done nothing wrong in the Hinduja passport application affair.

The Indian brothers had given 1m to the Millennium Dome and later successfully applied for British passports, but Mr Mandelson said the press was "wrong" to accuse him of lying.

Geoffrey offered to bridge the financial gap in my arrangements - now was there anything illegal, improper about all this?
Peter Mandelson
On home loan

"I knew I hadn't done anything wrong," he said.

"The allegations that were being cooked up I knew were false. I did not believe for one moment that the thing would be so badly handled and such a muddle created that it would result in my departure from government."

He added: "What happened in all that was a sort of a chasm opened up in front of me over this allegation of cash for passports, which was complete nonsense.

"[It] could have been easily dealt with, if only we'd been on top of the facts and not muddled through and just been precise in what we said to the press. But we weren't."

Mr Mandelson recalled his encounter with the prime minister when Mr Blair made clear he would have to resign for a second time.

"I said, 'Are you going to destroy my entire political career, if not my life, on the basis of one morning's newspaper headlines?'.

"And he looked pained, very pained - as I'm sure he was - and said, 'I'm afraid I don't think I have any alternative'."

'Extensive publicity'

Mr Mandelson said when he was first in the Cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio with responsibility for the Dome he had not taken the right approach to publicity.

"I committed the mortal sin with good publicity, or extensive publicity. Instead of just enjoying it, I inhaled. And I think I probably did inhale a bit too much."

And Mr Mandelson admitted he had been "technically" wrong not to tell his building society about his house loan from Mr Robinson, although he insisted there had been nothing improper about it.

"Geoffrey offered to bridge the financial gap in my arrangements. Now was there anything illegal, improper about all this? Certainly not."

  • Tabloid Tales is broadcast on BBC One on 8 May at 2235 BST.

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