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The BBC's John Pienaar
"Tony Blair must have been glad to get away for a few days"
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UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown
"These things happen in government"
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Clive Soley, Chairman Parliamentary Labour Party
"One assumes this is happening via the Tory party"
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Wednesday, 19 July, 2000, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Blair braced for more leaks
Brown, Mandelson, Campbell and Blair
Memo reportedly sent to Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair
Downing Street says it will not be "blown off course" by the appearance on newspaper front pages of a string of highly embarrassing memos from the heart of New Labour.

Tony Blair's official spokesman said the leaks, the latest of which took the shine off headlines on the government's multi-billion pound spending boost, were designed to "undermine" the prime minister.

Tory Leader William Hague seized on the contents of the latest memo at Prime Minister's Questions, challenging Mr Blair to admit its author Philip Gould was "spot on" in his analysis of where the government was going wrong.

We are not believed to have delivered

Philip Gould's memo
Mr Blair brushed off the attack and tried to turn the debate back to Tuesday's 43bn boost for public services in the Comprehensive Spending Review, claiming Tory plans to cut the spending amounted to "political hara-kiri."

The new leak, of a note from Mr Gould, one of Mr Blair's closest advisers, warned voters were turning away from the "contaminated" New Labour brand and that the government's majority could be slashed at the next election.

More leaks

Speculation at Westminster was also focusing on the possibility of a batch of memos having being leaked. The recent leaks all date from several months ago.

Mr Blair's spokesman said more could be expected over the next few days, as individual ministers spell out in detail how they will spend the extra cash given them in Chancellor Gordon Brown's Comprehensive Spending Review.

He said: "There does seem to be a strategy here.

"The leaking of these memos and the way they been leaked and the timing is designed to undermine the prime minister and seek to show that the government is more interested in presentation than substance."

'Spot on'

In the Commons, Mr Hague picked up on the main themes of the memo at Prime Minister's questions, challenging Mr Blair to admit that in every case the analysis of the goverment's failure was "spot on".

Beginning with the NHS, he said "isn't it a disgrace that you are commissioning memos ludicrously entitled 'Getting the right place in history,' - even Napoleon didn't commission memos called that - when many people are struggling to get the right place in hospital?".

"Wasn't the adviser who wrote: 'TB has not delivered. He said he would improve the NHS but instead things have got worse,' absolutely spot on?"

Mr Blair responded by asking "what 16bn worth of spending cuts would deliver".

Mr Hague taunted the Prime Minister over the contents of another memo leaked earlier in the week, in which Mr Blair asked for ideas for an "eye-catching" policy he could be associated with.

"Winston Churchill did not ask for blood, sweat and `eye-catching initiatives,'" Mr Hague said.

"I thought he would rather talk about the memo than the Comprehensive Spending Review," Mr Blair responded.

Mole hunt

The Times and The Sun
The Times and The Sun reveal the memo's contents
Cabinet Secretary Sir Richard Wilson has been asked to extend his inquiry into the earlier leak of a memo from Mr Blair - which appeared on the front pages of Monday's newspapers - to take in this latest instance.

Downing Street has refused to say how his inquiries are progressing.

Education Secretary David Blunkett suggested there was a "mole" in Downing Street with a grudge against the government.

But he also voiced implicit criticism of the style of the highly sensitive memos from Mr Gould, saying that "from now on, I think there will be a lot less memos and a lot more personal straight talking".

Fan of focus groups
Philip Gould, the Prime Minister's pollster
Gould: "New Labour brand is ridiculed"
In his leaked note, dated 2 May, Mr Gould warned Labour could see its giant majority hugely reduced by the Tories at the next election.

He also said patriotism and crime were key areas where Labour was failing to connect with voters, and acknowledged the perception that the party was obsessed with "spin" over substance.

Mr Gould is widely seen as one of the architects of New Labour and is a close trusted ally of both Mr Blair and Peter Mandelson.

An inquiry has been launched into both leaks
Only last month another memo from Mr Gould - this time warning Mr Blair's ill-fated speech to the Women's Institute needed serious work - was leaked.

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram rejected suggestions from Labour that his party was somehow involved in the leaks.

He said Labour's problem appeared to be "internal".

"This latest leak is a further indication of the bitter internal war that is raging in the heart of the Labour government.

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See also:

19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
New memo leak hits Blair
19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
What did the leaked memo say?
19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Labour's leaks: A recent history
19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
New Labour's focused architect
23 Feb 00 | Labour centenary
Philip Gould: The mission remains the same
17 Jul 00 | UK
A leak for the plugging
17 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Where is the leak weak link?
17 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Inquiry into leaked Blair memo
19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Death by a thousand leaks
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