Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Believe me"

I can't believe I have written 250 columns telling people not to believe everything written by the Westminster lobby, but I promise this is the last. I'm not perfect either. My worst howler was to say that the then Scottish first minister, Henry McLeish, was as likely to resign as Tony Blair was to admit that he was wrong about the war. McLeish had gone before the New Statesman hit the news-stands.

My cynicism about what is written about British politics comes from experience. I left the Treasury in a blaze of publicity following the Peter Mandelson home-loan scandal. The story would have emerged much earlier had one of the several lobby hacks who knew about the loan bothered to write about it. It is still difficult to believe that some journalists were more concerned about protecting the Prince of Darkness than breaking one of the biggest political stories under new Labour.

The PM, of course, knew nothing of Mandelson's misdemeanour. We know this because he said so in the House, and he would never mislead MPs, would he?

It is hard to say exactly who is the biggest Blair apologist. Andrew Rawnsley deserves praise for keeping his regular Observer column and selling the juicy bits of his book on Gordon Brown and Blair to the Mail. John Rentoul does the job for Tony in the Independent on Sunday, but the gold medal for Blair-nosing goes to the Guardian's Martin Kettle. Last time

I had a go at him for crawling, he paged me to say that he had on occasion criticised the Prime Minister but I, on the other hand, had never attacked Brown. Pathetic, but right. I have never hidden the fact that I want the Chancellor to be our PM, and one day he will be. When it happens, I may even return to write about it here.

This article first appeared in the 01 August 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Why Britain is great