Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Blair should take credit for minimum wage hike"

My old mate Martin Kettle of the Guardian is up to his old tricks. Last time I chastised him here for a sycophantically pro-Blair leader column, he sent me a rude text message. At least he didn't deny that he had written the unsigned comment piece for the paper.

It's worth quoting from its 26 February leader on the announcement of a rise in the minimum wage: "Mr Blair, who in the past has pushed for higher increases than Mr Brown . . . deserves much of the credit. It must never be forgotten that if the Conservatives had been in power there would not have been a minimum wage at all." The truth is that if Blair had had his way, there would have been no minimum wage.

In the 1992 election, he got slaughtered on a phone-in by a hairdresser who insisted that, under the minimum wage, she'd have to sack some of her staff. Our future leader had no answer, and at a post-election meeting with Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson he argued that the policy should be dropped. For once, Mandy and Gordon were united in opposing Blair. They argued that not only was it the right thing to do, it would be impossible to dump the policy.

How ironic that, having been proved right about the minimum wage, which is popular besides, Brown is prevented from announcing a new increase in his Budget speech, and Blair gets given the job.

Now I wonder who told the Guardian leader writer - sorry, Mr Kettle - that Blair had argued for a higher minimum wage? Given that the level is recommended by the Low Pay Commission, this is not just fanciful thinking but, as I used to say, complete bollocks. Still, with his opinion poll ratings plummeting, the PM needs all the help he can get, even if it's all lies.

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