Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Cabinet heavyweights back Blair as war protest grows"

Following Tony Blair's speech in Glasgow, the Labour spin-machine briefed hacks there that all the cabinet ministers speaking the next day would back the Prime Minister's war policy.

First up was my old comrade John Reid, who, being communist trained, stuck rigidly to the party line. Next came Alan Milburn. He had had time to digest reports of the million-strong London march and an equally impressive one in Glasgow. Sure, he called for support for the leader, but he didn't argue the case for war - which isn't surprising, because he doesn't believe in it. Neither, I suspect, does Gordon Brown. As usual, the delegates to the spring conference were much more enthusiastic about his speech than Blair's. He at least sounded like a socialist.

Brown's support for Blair was unequivocal but, again, I never heard him argue for war. And he would hardly do anything else at a time when people are beginning to talk about him taking over as leader sooner rather than later. Other ministers were also unenthusiastic about Blair's war stance. To say that the mood was sombre is an understatement. I found it almost impossible to find any activist to come on the radio and support Blair.

In Scotland the party faces parliamentary elections in May. And all the talk is about an abysmal turnout and Labour losses. No wonder SNP leaders I met on the Glasgow march had huge smiles on their faces. By coming down firmly against the war, they are far more in tune with the public there than Blair and some of them even think they may win in May. If that happens, calls for Brown to replace Blair will be public instead of private.

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