The Racing Card

The Bet: Who told the <em>Sunday Times</em> about the compromising pictures?

Barman at Congress Club 3-1
Waitress at Congress Club 4-1
Three other journalists in Congress Club 5-1
Peter Mandelson 10-1
Overheard in Strangers' Bar 20-1

The turf accountant in Southwold told me that he wasn't familiar with this story. In any case, he said, as it would never go to court it would be impossible to prove who the guilty person was. "Don't journalists just make this stuff up?" he asked. "What a cynic," I thought.

I'm told (I don't read papers on holiday) that I've been fingered for telling Evan Black of the Sunday Times this story. The evidence is that I had lunch with him in the Congress Club, Westminster, last week.

It never ceases to amaze me how naive some people can be. Last week, two lobby hacks, Andy Grice of the Independent and Tom Baldwin of the Times, reported that Geoffrey Robinson was being threatened by No 10 over his book. A BBC news editor was heard to say, "it must be true as it's in two different newspapers". It never occurred to him that these two may have co-operated over the story or that, horror of horrors, one of them gave it to the other.

Some people, particularly in No 10, seem to think that they always know who leaked what to whom. They don't. I remember Peter Mandelson's nark, Tim Allan, filling two pages of A4 explaining to his master why I must have been responsible for a particular story. In fact, the journalist had just made it up.

My advice to the bookies is never lay odds on who leaked what to whom. The source of the compromising pictures story is just as likely to be Peter Mandelson as the barman in the Congress Club. I've quoted Mandelson at 10-1 because, like me, he is always one of the usual suspects. I'm not quoted in the odds because "it wasn't me, Guv".

Charlie Whelan

This article first appeared in the 01 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Interview - David Ramsbotham