Are Brown backers right to get the jitters?

Are Brown backers right to get the jitters?

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    The Chancellor’s price eases as honours-linked stories continue

The Sunday papers won’t make pleasant reading this morning at either Number 10 or Number 11 Downing Street as journalists try to get their teeth into what is going on with the honours case and what this means for the Labour succession.

    For while coverage of Blair’s quizzing might have been limited on the day by initiating a large number of other stories on the day to “bury the bad news” this does not apply to the same extent to the Sunday press. In fact the spin strategy might have had the reverse effect.

On the betting markets, as the chart illustrates, the Gordon Brown leadership price has eased considerably since just over a week ago when a winning £100 bet would produce a profit of just £18. The latest price has that up to £23.

After Gordon Brown’s carefully worded denial on Friday about his involvement with two individuals the Observer quotes “a senior party source” saying that the Chancellor did informally make representations. This gives a different impression from his statement that he “…has never made any such submissions nominating an individual or individuals in letters or statements”

The report by Nick Temko goes on “..However a senior source who knows the ways honours are awarded claimed that Brown had wanted the venture capital businessman Sir Ronald Cohen and the think-tank director Wilf Stevenson, both close allies of his, to be elevated to the Lords. The source admitted the Chancellor had not put anything in writing, but added: ‘That’s not the way it works in any case. People are asked for their opinions, and it is 100 per cent certain that Gordon suggested two names for the list: Cohen and Stevenson.”

The Independent on Sunday, meanwhile, puts the focus on the aftermath of Tony Blair’s police interview and says that it has written evidence that donors were nominated “for their public service to the nation, and not for services to Labour, as claimed by the Prime Minister.”

The donors expressed surprise after Mr Blair’s historic interview with Scotland Yard in Downing Street last Thursday, when he told the police the honours were “expressly party peerages given for party service”.

This is sharp contrast, as the report notes, “…to the official nomination documents, marked “Restricted Appointments”, say that Mr Blair’s “grounds for recommendation” to the House of Lords were the donors’ work in the fields of education, health and charity. The leaked citations make no mention of “party service” and cast doubt on No 10’s assertion that the honours were not bestowed in exchange for cash.”

The Sunday Telegraph’s lead says that Tony Blair is “at war” with Lord Levy, over the investigation and is “refusing to offer any public, or even private, backing to the man who helped secure £14 million in secret loans for Labour before the 2005 election.”

Finally, the Mail on Sunday, reports that it has what it describes as a “secret Downing Street memo” which the papers sums up as saying that “Labour has no chance of winning the next Election because voters think the Government is a shambles – and there is little Gordon Brown can do to stop David Cameron becoming Prime Minister”.

Tomorrow a new week begins and today’s papers will be used to wrap fish and chips.

Mike Smithson

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