OPINION: Blair's loyalty to Moore is mysterious

When I said on Radio 5 Live last week that I thought Stephen

Byers's adviser Jo Moore would have to resign or be sacked it wasn't

long before Millbank went into overdrive. All of a sudden the studio of

Sunday Service was swamped with e-mails defending her. A particularly

nasty e-mail accused me of 'sour grapes' because in 1993 Jo Moore had

been appointed over me as head of the Labour Party press office. The

e-mailer recalled that it was Margaret Beckett who had interviewed me -

something even I had forgotten.

The fact is, I have always had every respect for Moore as one of the

most effective, hard-working and loyal press officers I've ever met. I

will never forget the first time I met her because she had the thickest

filofax I'd ever seen. I was impressed.

We were never the best of friends but I respected her because she was

one of the unsung heroes of Labour's long battle to become electable.

With all that experience she should know better than anyone that in her

game politicians come first and spin-doctors are expendable. Given that

just about every head of information in this Government has been sacked,

moved or retired, this should be obvious. I confess that I helped remove

one such person from the Treasury myself, but my battles were usually

with someone else.

It is well documented that I never quite saw eye-to-eye with Number 10.

Indeed Tony Blair seemed to spend more time trying to persuade Gordon

Brown to sack me than he did trying to persuade him that Britain should

join the euro. Brown and I decided it was time for me to leave long

before Mandelson's home loan was exposed and he was forced to quit. I

may not have liked it, but I was expendable.

The fact that Blair wrongly blamed me for the demise of his favourite

minister just meant I left in a blaze of glory. Quite simply, such was

the intensity of the 'war' between me and Number 10, my boss was being

damaged. But ironically my departure hasn't stopped Number 10 from

undermining the Chancellor at every opportunity.

If we thought my continuing presence in the Treasury would damage Brown,

that is nothing to the damage that Moore has caused to the Government.

The longer she stays the worse it gets, yet for some reason that has

baffled every hack I've talked to, Blair has failed to sack her.

Instead we've had Number 10 inventing a row with the BBC and poor old

Kate Adie to try to divert attention from the story. Now we've had the

biggest insult to our intelligence ever. Number 10 actually had the

nerve to brief hacks that Blair has instructed all special advisers to

stop spinning. He should tell his spin-doctor to stop spinning and sack

Jo Moore. That would at least undo a little of the damage her actions

have caused.

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