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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Blair complains over 'racist pensioners' claim

Pensioners' attitude to race were question in the article
Prime Minister Tony Blair has written to Conservative Party Chairman Michael Ancram accusing him of "stirring up the issue" of Labour's attitude towards the elderly.

The letter follows reports in last week's Sunday Times newspaper about Clive Soley, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and remarks he was alleged to have made about pensioners being racist.



Michael Ancram: Receiving a letter from Mr Blair
The prime minister's letter said: "Clive denied the story immediately...and The Sunday Times was specifically told that no one had said pensioners were racist."

"The paper was also told that Clive had urged party supporters to spend more time talking to pensioners."

Mr Blair continued: "I am surprised that you [Michael Ancram] should wish to associate yourself in this way with such shoddy and inaccurate reporting."

"If you wish to continue cynically stirring up this issue then that is a matter for you."

"For my part, I will continue to set out the government's record of support for pensioners."

The prime minister's official spokesman, Alastair Campbell, said Mr Blair found it extraordinary that The Sunday Times could use the story and that the Tories were so keen to jump on the back of it.

He said the prime minister wrote his letter because he did not want those views to go unchallenged.

Mr Soley has made a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission and has asked for newspaper corrections.

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