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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 17:06 GMT
Brown directs swipe at Mandelson
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Talk of differences continues
Gordon Brown has taken a sideswipe at ex-minister Peter Mandelson - soon after Downing Street warned people to focus on "substance, not soap opera".

In his pre-Budget report, Mr Brown gave an implicit rebuke on Mr Mandelson's warning against economic "gloating".

Mr Brown's unscripted words came after a civil service union leader said the "battle" between Mr Brown and Tony Blair was harming the government.

Number 10 said ministers were interested in governing, not gossip.

Hampering departments?

In a clear response to Mr Mandelson's comments, Mr Brown told MPs: "Inflation is low, unemployment is low, we are growing faster than many other European countries.

"Not, Mr Speaker, exaggerated gloating but the words of the leader of the Opposition."

Mr Mandelson is out of both government and Parliament but has always been seen as a firm ally of Mr Blair and has acknowledged he has not always had the easiest of relationships with the chancellor.

Earlier, First Division Association's leader Jonathan Baume told BBC Radio Five Live that what Mr Brown wanted implemented was "not by any means what Alan Milburn and the prime minister want to see".

The prime minister also has an agenda and that's not necessarily the same as the Treasury's
Jonathan Baume
First Division Association

There were sometimes "conflicting and competing agendas for government" between Number 10 and the Treasury, he said.

"Government departments get their money from the Treasury on the basis of public service agreements they sign up to," said Mr Baume.

"But at the same time the prime minister also has an agenda and that's not necessarily the same as the Treasury's and the prime minister is of course a very powerful figure in any government.

"He also sends instructions and messages and directions to departments about how he would like each secretary of state and each department to implement a policy agenda.

"The problem is that on many occasions these two don't add up and individual cabinet ministers as well as departments have to make sense of this battle."

Gossip?

The prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Baume was quite entitled to express his view.

"We are equally perfectly entitled to get on with the job and that's what we are doing," he said, adding that he was concerned with "the substance of government, not a soap opera".

Mr Brown's former adviser Ed Balls, who is hoping to win a seat in Parliament, dismissed Mr Baume's claims as "silly fourth hand gossip".

He said: "The fact is that today Tony Blair and Gordon Brown together are setting out long term plans on skills, on childcare on science and together as well which is what governments do."

Tory shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin said: "The battle Royal that the top civil servants are now reporting on between the chancellor and Tony Blair is preventing them both from getting on with the business of getting taxpayers value for money."

Mr Baume's comments come ahead of a new book by journalist Robert Peston which will reportedly say the chancellor is setting out his own policy platform because he believes Mr Blair will not hand over power to him voluntarily.




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