Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Lord Irvine rejects £22,000 pay rise"

It is still difficult to believe that the Lord Chancellor was initially given a £22,000 salary increase at the same time that troops and teachers were being given virtually nothing. What is even more unbelievable than awarding him an increase in the first place is the idea that he himself decided not to take it. The Downing Street spin-doctors must think that we are all idiots. The Lord Chancellor would take a £100,000 pay rise if he thought he could get away with it.

This is a man who loves the high life and doesn't give a stuff what we the voters think. The reason for that is simple - he isn't elected. In 1997, for the first time ever, Labour's election manifesto didn't have a commitment to abolish this outdated job, and that was because Blair wanted to give it to his mate.

Irvine may be seen as a comic character but what he does is not funny. Apart from appoint judges, he sits in cabinet and chairs cabinet committees. In his spare time he tells Blair what to do and helps write his speeches. Blair even had the cheek to get him to interfere in Gordon Brown's Commons statement on the euro in the first parliament. But the real Chancellor got his revenge when, instead of replacing the old No 11 Downing Street carpet, he left bare floorboards. This contrasted with Irvine's extravagant decoration of his own apartments. "Brown carpets Lord Irvine" was a headline that went down very well at the Treasury.

The Lord Chancellor didn't give up his pay rise of his own accord, as we were told; Gordon Brown made him. He remains a big embarrassment for Blair but that doesn't seem to bother the PM. All Blair's close friends cause him trouble, and that doesn't bother him either.

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