Blair's Mentor Stands Accused of Laying Down Home Rule Law

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Byline: BENEDICT BROGAN

TONY BLAIR'S friend and mentor last night stood accused of 'political sabotage' over Labour's controversial home rule plans.

Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, is being named by Ministers as the central figure in the disarray which has gripped the Government's attempts to deliver devolution for Scotland.

The Cabinet has been left bitterly divided following backroom attempts by its English members to stamp on the aspirations of the Scots.

Just a fortnight before the publication of a crucial White Paper on home rule, Ministers are reported to be 'at war' over the amount of powers to be given away to Scotland.

The Prime Minister will be forced to intervene in Cabinet tomorrow to veto proposals that would have given a Scottish parliament the right to set tougher abortion laws than in England.

He has sided with Lord Irvine and English Ministers Jack Straw and Frank Dobson to overrule Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar, a keen champion of Scottish home rule.

But at the heart of the row is a decades-old personal feud between Lord Alexander 'Derry' Irvine and Mr Dewar, which sources say has 'poisoned the air' among the Prime Minister's key colleagues.

The two are 'barely on speaking terms' over events 25 years ago, when Mr Dewar's wife Alison left him for Irvine, then an ambitious young barrister, taking their two children.

Mr Dewar, 59, has never remarried and the relationship between the two men - both Scots lawyers - has been described as icy.

Labour's landslide victory swept Lord Irvine into Government as Lord Chancellor and Mr Blair promptly put him in charge of the key Cabinet committees on the constitution. …