Martin Bright

Gordon Brown, Charlie Whelan and Me

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There was some rather touching Twitter activity from Charlie Whelan over the weekend (I have corrected the spelling).

"Just got message from old pal Graham Sharpe at William Hill. Hung Parliament odds slashed to 2/1. Says 'Shrewd punters' are on this."

This is the nearest I have seen to an official admission that a hung parliament is the best the Labour Party can now hope for. As self-appointed guardian of the Prime Minister's interests, Whelan has taken a close interest in the selection process of new Labour PPCs, so he should be in a position to know.

Nick Cohen took this weekend's reports of Gordon Brown's treatment of staff to remind readers of his Standpoint blog about Whelan's threats against me before I left the New Statesman (delivered in true Whelan style to my wife at a press awards ceremony where she was nominated for a prize). 

As the issue of my departure from the NS  has now been picked up by Guido and Harry's Place I should probably clarify my position on this matter.

Former owner Geoffrey Robinson saw fit to write a letter to the Times denying that the Prime Minister had a role in my departure from the magazine. He also pointed out that the matter was covered by a mutual confidentiality agreement (thus breaching the agreement in quite spectacular fashion). 

The following can be said about this without fear of further breaches:

1. The account of events at the UK Press Gazette Awards of 2008 as related in Private Eye and posted by Nick Cohen over the weekend is accurate. No apology has ever been made by Charlie Whelan for his disgraceful behaviour that evening. However, I have no evidence that he ever voiced his opinion to Geoffrey Robinson or Gordon Brown that I should be removed from my job.

2. Geoffrey Robinson made it clear that he disapproved of a programme I made for Channel 4 Dispatches on Ken Livingstone and an article I wrote for the Evening Standard urging people not to vote for Livingstone as mayor.

3. John Kampfner was removed as editor of the magazine shortly after the programme was aired.

4. Geoffrey Robinson's preferred candidate for the job was Patrick Hennessy, the political editor of the Sunday Telegraph and a Brownite loyalist. I was urged to apply for the job to stop this happening but continued to support the acting editor,  Sue Matthias.

5. Maintaining my position and independence as political editor became increasingly difficult from the moment I exposed the inner workings of Livingstone's city hall. 

6. I was deeply unhappy with the decision by the magazine to settle a libel action with the Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi. 

This may not be of interest to many people but I happen to think the freedom of the press is a precious thing. 

As I have said previously, it was time to move on from the NS.