Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - ''Top civil servant blocks Tim Allan's return to Downing Street''

Tim Allan used to do Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell's dirty work, but he was still a very effective spin-doctor. That is why, with friends deserting him, Tony Blair was desperate to get Allan back.The former aide was one of the first to leave Downing Street and go into business. By all accounts he has been a hit in the PR world, where he has an impressive client list, including, inevitably, Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.

It was reported that Allan was asked back to "help the transition to a Brown administration". This was complete rubbish. The Chancellor trusts Allan as much as he does Blair. Allan must have been chuffed that the PM wanted him so much, but he sensibly decided to stick to the "never go back" advice an old comrade once gave me. His dilemma was how to let Blair down gently. Plenty of spin helps.

We soon read in the papers that Allan couldn't leave his million-pound company for Downing Street because the cabinet secretary had made it too difficult for him. We were told Sir Andrew Turnbull insisted that he would have to sell his company, and he just couldn't agree to that.

I still can't believe how gullible some hacks are. Tim will still be laughing when I next play golf with him.

Turnbull, remember, is the man who let Cherie Blair dip into Tony's "blind trust" to buy a couple of flats for her son. The idea that he would make it difficult for Allan to join No 10 if Tony wanted it is, as they say, complete bollocks. The question is, who can Blair find to do spin for him in the run-up to a Brown takeover? Don't worry, I'm certainly not expecting the call.

This article first appeared in the 06 June 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Mob rule