Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "New manifesto row threatens feud between Blair and Brown"

Just when you think that the Independent has given up trying to stoke the Brown/Blair "feud", up it pops with an "exclusive" Alan Milburn interview. The Tyneside MP, who couldn't stand the heat and so got out, told the paper: "It would be a mistake purely to fight this forthcoming battle on investment v cuts." As this is exactly what Gordon Brown has chosen to fight the election on, the paper put two and two together and got six.

It means, we are told, that a "battle royal" has broken out between Blair and Brown over the election manifesto: Blair wants to have more "public service reforms" but Brown doesn't. Yet what Milburn says simply doesn't matter any more. He has no chance of a job in a Brown cabinet, and just follows Peter Mandelson in doing anything he can to sour the relationship of the Prime Minister with his Chancellor.

The briefings against this story from both No 10 and No 11 could not have been stronger, and in the following day's Guardian Brown spelt out exactly how the campaign will be fought. Now we all know how much the Independent likes the twice-disgraced Mandelson, but it, like Mandy, cannot seem to accept that Brown and Blair have patched up their differences. Blair needs his Chancellor much more than he needs Milburn, Mandelson and Stephen Byers.

Milburn also told the Independent that Blair should "keep going and keep your foot on the accelerator, not the brake". Presumably it was Milburn and Mandelson who advised the PM to say that he had "no reverse gear". Look where that piece of advice got him.

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