Tue, Sep 20, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Ex-spin doctor tells of romp on Blair's sofa

`EXPLOSIVE' Although former Downing Street spin doctor Lance Price pulls punches in his soon-to-be-published memoirs, the book contains some saucy details as well

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

It's not exactly former US president Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. But on Sunday revelations of a romp on the sofa in British Prime Minister Tony Blair's inner sanctum were among some of the secrets divulged in the soon-to-be-published memoirs of the Downing Street spin doctor Lance Price.

Billed "explosive," The Spin Doctor's Diary is light on the killer punches that Price might have landed on bodies in the Blair administration. Instead, it seems likely there will just be a great many blushes.

Price, 47, recounts how on the night of Labour's second election landslide victory two Labour officials had sex on Blair's sofa, while the rest of the Cabinet celebrated down the corridor. Even more bizarrely, he claims he interrupted their frolics while looking for sun cream, having fallen asleep on Brighton beach in the midday sun.

The man who was the prime minister's deputy communications adviser for most of Labour's first term points out some Blair vanity, saying that the premier does not like being seen wearing his glasses.

He adds that when he expressed a desire for a pair of Calvin Klein frames, Blair's choice was overruled by Alastair Campbell, who said that he should sport a pair of National Health Service specs.

As well as sex at No. 10, there's profanity too. Price -- a former BBC journalist -- reveals that an angry Blair shouted: "Fucking Welsh" when it looked like Labour might lose the first assembly election and said that he couldn't stand "fucking prelates." Campbell was not shy of calling his boss a "dickhead" to his face.

On Sunday, the Mail on Sunday reported that Downing Street tried to intervene to have some of the book's more embarrassing revelations removed. Serializing the book, it said that the Cabinet secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, tried to prevent its publication and accused its author of "betrayal."

Under civil service rules, Price was obliged to submit his manuscript to the government for clearance. He was then asked to make cuts. The newspaper claimed that one of those cuts was an account of Blair's mood when he sent British bombers on joint raids with the US over Iraq in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox.

"I couldn't help but feeling that TB was relishing his first blooding as PM, sending the boys into action. Despite all the necessary stuff about taking action `with a heavy heart,' I think he feels it is part of his coming of age as a leader," read Price's original version.

The censored account read: "I couldn't help feeling that TB had mixed emotions about sending the boys into action. He said he did it with a `heavy heart,' but at the same time he must have known it would happen sometime and maybe it's part of his coming of age as a leader."

Price also sheds light on the close relationship between Blair and the media proprietor Rupert Murdoch.

The Mail on Sunday claims he wrote: "Apparently we've promised News International we won't make any changes to our Europe policy without talking to them," and that the Downing Street censors came back with this wording: "Apparently, News International are under the impression we won't make any changes without asking them."

Price alleges that an instant policy on asylum seekers was dreamed up after Blair became rattled by "tabloid stories about professional beggars."

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